(January 2022) - Phoenix Partner and Co-Chair of Lewis Brisbois' Transportation Practice Julie E. Maurer and Partner Andrew Kleiner recently defeated a motion to remand to state court on behalf of an interstate moving company when the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut found removal was proper because the Carmack Amendment completely preempted the plaintiff's state law claims arising out of an interstate household goods move.
In this matter, the plaintiff hired an interstate moving company to transport her household goods and personal property from Connecticut to Maryland. After the move, the plaintiff alleged certain valuable jewelry was missing and accused the moving company of theft. The plaintiff filed suit in Connecticut state court alleging statutory theft, conversion, violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training, and supervision—all state claw claims—against the moving company. Lewis Brisbois removed the case to federal court on the basis that the Carmack Amendment to the ICC Termination Act of 1995, 49 U.S.C. §14706, preempted all the plaintiff's state law claims. Lewis Brisbois also filed a motion to dismiss all the plaintiff's claims, which argued, in addition to other grounds, that the Carmack Amendment was the exclusive remedy for claims of loss or damage to goods arising out of an interstate household goods move, and thus all the plaintiff's state law claims were preempted by the Carmack Amendment.
In response, the plaintiff moved to remand to state court, claiming the Carmack amendment did not apply. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that Carmack did not apply because the jewelry was not included in the items to be loaded or moved by the moving company, not listed on the bill of lading, and never left the State of Connecticut. In opposition, Lewis Brisbois argued that removal was proper for several reasons. First, each of the plaintiff's claims arose during the course of an interstate move, and thus the Carmack Amendment completely preempts the plaintiffs state law claims. Second, the Carmack Amendment is comprehensive enough to embrace responsibility for all losses resulting from any alleged failure by the moving company during an interstate move and therefore, because the alleged claims occurred during the move, Carmack preemption applied.
The court denied the plaintiff's motion to remand because the complaint revealed that each of the plaintiff's claims arose from the alleged loss of her jewelry, which occurred during the course of an interstate move. The court explained that the plaintiff failed to acknowledge the broad definition of “transportation” under the Carmack Amendment, which includes “services related to th[e] movement of property], including arranging for, receipt, delivery, . . . handling [and] packing[.]” 49 U.S. C. § 13102(23)(b). Importantly, the court recognized that the “preemptive effect of the Carmack Amendment on state law has been recognized for nearly a century.” Therefore, because the alleged loss of jewelry occurred during the loading and packing portion of the interstate move, the court concluded that whether or not the jewelry left the state or was listed on the bill of lading was irrelevant to the question of preemption under the Carmack Amendment.
Additionally, acknowledging that the moving company's motion to dismiss was also based on Carmack Amendment preemption, the court directed the plaintiff to amend her complaint to assert a claim under the Carmack Amendment since granting the motion to dismiss was inevitable.
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