New Avenue for Motor Carriers and Brokers to Remove Cases to Federal Court

Earlier this year in Desiree Luccio and Reed Frerichs v. UPS Co., the Southern District of Florida brought good news for motor carriers and brokers.  This case involved UPS’ intrastate transportation of frozen embryos.  The embryos were allegedly damaged during transportation and Plaintiff sued UPS for negligence, a state law claim.  UPS removed the case to federal court on the basis that the state law claim of negligence was preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1944 (“FAAAA”), a federal law.  This was unique because carriers and brokers typically rely on the Carmack Amendment to remove these types of claims to federal court.  UPS could not use the Carmack Amendment as its basis for removal in this case because the Carmack Amendment only applies to the interstate transportation of goods.  Plaintiff moved to remand the case to state court arguing that the FAAAA only applied to the interstate transportation of goods as well.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida agreed with UPS that it had jurisdiction over the case under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1337,  and therefore denied Plaintiff’s motion to remand.  The Court held that it had jurisdiction over the case because the FAAAA did in fact preempt any state law negligence claim stemming from the price, route, or service of transportation of property.  The only goods that the FAAAA did not regulate and accordingly preempt state law on, was the transportation of “household goods,” defined in the Act at 49 U.S.C. § 13102.  The Court did not find any distinction between the intra and interstate transportation of goods.  The Court reasoned that the FAAAA itself is captioned “Federal Authority Over Intrastate Transportation” evidencing Congress’ intent for the law to govern intrastate transportation.

This is good news for motor carriers and brokers because it provides another mechanism for removing a state law claim filed in state court to federal court.  Now motor carriers and brokers can feel confident in removing claims involving both intra and interstate transportation of property.  This is desirable for motor carriers and brokers because federal courts are more likely to grant summary judgment for the defendant than state courts.  Motor carriers and brokers also generally fair better in federal court because federal courts are more likely to limit liability based upon contract limits and federal courts are usually more familiar with the applicable transportation laws at issue.  Motor carriers and brokers should add this case to their toolbox when defending against negligence claims arising out of the price, route, or service of the transportation of property.

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