York v. Day Transfer Co., C.A. No. 04-551S.

Citation525 F.Supp.2d 289
Decision Date20 November 2007
Docket NumberC.A. No. 04-551S.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
PartiesJason YORK and Maureen York, Plaintiffs, v. DAY TRANSFER COMPANY, Apollo Van Lines, Inc. and Andrews Express & Storage Warehouse, Inc., Defendants, v. Williams Moving Company, Third-Party Defendant.

Joseph R. Palumbo, Jr., Middletown, RI, for Plaintiffs.

Carolyn P. Medina, Robert K. Taylor, Partridge, Snow & Hahn LLP, Providence, RI, for Defendants.

George W. Wright, George W. Wright & Associates, LLC, Hackensack, NJ, James P. Marusak, Gidley, Sarli & Marusak, Providence, RI, for Third-Party Defendant.


WILLIAM E. SMITH, District Judge.

Defendant Day Transfer Company ("Day") and Third-Party, Defendant Williams Moving Company 1("Williams") move jointly for summary judgment on all claims against them based on their interpretation of the so-called Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706(a)(1), and request entry of, final judgment pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 54(b). Defendant Andrews Express & Storage Warehouse, Inc. ("Andrews") moves for summary judgment independently, but under, the same theory of preemption. Plaintiffs Jason and Maureen York (the "Yorks") oppose both motions. After careful consideration, and for the reasons that follow, the Court will grant both motions for summary judgment, and deny as moot the request for judgment under Rule 54(b).


In February 2004, Jason York, a Major in the United States Marine Corps then stationed in Texas, received transfer orders to relocate to Rhode Island. The Yorks arranged to have their household goods shipped under the direction of the Department of Defense ("DOD"). To that end, the Joint Personal Property Shipping Office ("JPPSO"), an office within the DOD, issued a Government Bill of Lading ("GBL") for the Yorks' interstate shipment. The GBL identified Day as the responsible transportation company with instructions to store the goods in transit prior to delivery. Williams, Day's disclosed, booking agent,1 hired Apollo Van Lines, Inc. ("Apollo") to transport the goods to Rhode Island,2 where Andrews would store them until the Yorks could move into their house. The goods arrived undamaged in Rhode Island on or about June 16, 2004. While in storage, however, the goods suffered considerable mold damage. Nevertheless, Andrews delivered the damaged goods to the Yorks' house on August 16, .2004, pursuant to the GBL. The damaged goods quickly befouled the living areas of the house, which the Yorks vacated pending remediation.

In October 2004, the Yorks sued Day, Apollo, and Andrews in state court, alleging several counts all sounding in negligence. The complaint did not specify damages. On November 30, 2004, Day served the Yorks with a request to admit that the amount in controversy was not above $10,000; they denied it. See 28 U.S.C. § 1337(a) (providing that the federal district courts shall have original jurisdiction in any proceeding arising under an act of Congress regulating commerce only if the matter in controversy for each bill of lading exceeds $10,000). On December 29, 2004, Day, with the express consent of Andrews and Apollo, removed the case to the federal court. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(b), 1446(b) (providing that if the case stated in the initial pleading is not removable, a defendant may file a notice of removal within thirty days after receipt of a paper showing that the case is removable). In its notice of removal, Day posited that removal was proper due to this Court's exclusive jurisdiction under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706(a)(1), which, according to Day, preempted the Yorks' negligence claims. The Yorks did not move to remand; rather, they amended their Complaint by, adding Carmack Amendment claims against each Defendant, and modifying the negligence allegations in an attempt to avoid preemption. Day then filed a third-party. complaint against Williams for indemnity and apportionment. The Yorks, in turn, amended their Complaint a second time, adding a negligence count against Williams and another against Day, essentially for hiring Williams.

All told, the Second Amended Complaint advances nine counts; two of them (Counts IV and V, both claims against Apollo) have since been dismissed by stipulation of the parties. (See supra note 2.) The seven remaining counts allege as follows: Count I (Carmack Amendment claim against Day); Count II (negligent remediation against Day); Count III (negligent brokerage services against Day); Count VI (Carmack Amendment claim against Andrews); Count VII (negligent bailee against Andrews); Count VIII (negligence in making dwelling uninhabitable against Andrews); Count IX (negligent brokerage services against Williams). Collectively, the present motions seek summary judgment on all remaining counts.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), a party is entitled to summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Cadle Co. v. Haws, 116 F.3d 957, 959 (1st Cir.1997).

An issue of fact is "genuine" if it "may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party," id. at 960 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), and an issue of fact is "material" "only when it possesses the capacity, if determined .as the nonmovant wishes, to alter the outcome of the lawsuit under the applicable legal tenets." Roche v. John Hancock Mut. Life Ins. Co., 81 F.3d 249, 253 (1st, Cir.1996). Summary judgment involves shifting burdens between the moving and the nonmoving parties. Initially, the burden requires the moving party to show "an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Garside v. Osco Drug, Inc., 895 F.2d 46, 48 (1st Cir.1990) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). Having established this, the burden then falls upon the nonmoving party, who must oppose the motion by presenting facts that demonstrate a genuine trialworthy issue remains. Cadle, 116 F.3d at 960. This burden can be satisfied by presenting "enough competent evidence to enable a finding favorable to the nonmoving party." Goldman v. First Nat'l Bank of Boston, 985 F.2d 1113, 1116 (1st Cir.1993).


Even though the Yorks did not challenge removal, this Court is obliged to scrutinize the basis of its jurisdiction sua sponte. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (giving plaintiffs thirty days from removal in which to seek remand, but requiring remand "at any time before final judgment [if] it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction"); Diaz-Rodriguez v. Pep Boys Corp., 410 F.3d 56, 58-59 (1st Cir,2005) (remanding so that the district court could remand the case to the state court because it was improvidently removed, even though removal went unchallenged below); see also Am. Fiber & Finishing, Inc. v. Tyco Healthcare Group, LP, 362 F.3d 136, 139 (1st Cir.2004) ("Federal courts are expected to monitor their jurisdictional boundaries vigilantly and to guard carefully against expansion by distended judicial interpretation."). This is especially true where, as here, that basis is not readily apparent.

A civil action filed in a state court may be removed to federal court if at least one of the claims arises under federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441. A claim "arises under" federal law "when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiffs properly pleaded complaint." Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987) (describing this inquiry as the "well-pleaded complaint rule"); see also Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152, 29 S.Ct. 42, 53 L.Ed. 126 (1908) ("[A] suit arises under the Constitution and laws of the United States' only when the plaintiff's statement of his own cause of action shows that it is based upon those laws or that Constitution."). Under the rule, a federal claim must be alleged affirmatively: "It is not, enough that the plaintiff alleges some anticipated defense to his cause of action and asserts that the defense is invalidated by some provision of the Constitution of the United States." Mottley, 211 U.S. at 152, 29 S.Ct. 42; see also Taylor v. Anderson, 234 U.S. 74, 75-76, 34 S.Ct. 724, 58 L.Ed. 1218 (1914) (holding that whether the case arises under federal law "must be determined, from what necessarily appears in the plaintiff's statement of his own claim unaided by anything alleged in anticipation or avoidance of defenses which it is thought the defendant may interpose"). This includes defenses anticipated in a complaint that rely on the preemptive effect of a federal statute, "even if, both parties admit that the defense is the only question truly at issue in the case." Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 14, 103 S.Ct. 2841, 77 L.Ed.2d 420 (1983); see also Ten Taxpayer Citizens Group v. Cape Wind Assoc., LLC, 373 F.3d 183, 191 (1st Cir.2004) (applying the rule to a claim of preemption under the Magnuson-Stevens. Act). Thus, generally speaking, and absent diversity jurisdiction,3 a case is not removable unless the complaint affirmatively alleges a federal claim.

In the present case, at the time of removal, the claims in the Yorks' Complaint relied exclusively on state law. This is not the end of the inquiry, however. A state claim may nevertheless be removed to federal court, as an exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule, "when a federal statute wholly displaces the state-law cause of...

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