Menu

Bits & Pieces

Maendele v Rhett Butler Trucking

United States District Court,

M.D. Alabama, Northern Division.

Michael R. MAENDELE, et al. Plaintiffs,

v.

RHETT BUTLER TRUCKING, INC., et al., Defendants.

June 8, 2005.

 

FULLER, Chief J.

This is a case which arises out of a collision between a tractor trailer owned by Rhett Butler Trucking, Inc. (hereinafter “Rhett Butler Trucking”) and driven by its employee Jason Crowell (hereinafter “Crowell”) and the vehicle in which Plaintiffs were traveling. The Complaint contains various claims of negligence by Rhett Butler Trucking and Crowell. This cause is presently before the Court on Defendants’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. # 46). The Court has carefully considered the arguments and submissions in support of and in opposition to this motion and finds that it is due to be GRANTED.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

Subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims is proper under 28 U.S.C. § § 1332 (diversity). The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and the Court finds adequate allegations in support of both personal jurisdiction and venue.

FACTS AND RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Court has carefully considered all deposition excerpts and documents submitted in support of and in opposition to the motion. The submissions of the parties, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, establish the following facts relevant to the issues raised by Defendants’ motion:

Rhett Butler Trucking hired Crowell as a diesel mechanic in 1998. In August of 2001, Crowell was still employed full-time during the week as a diesel mechanic for Rhett Butler Trucking, but he had also been working for about six months as a part-time truck driver for Rhett Butler Trucking. Before being hired as a driver for Rhett Butler Trucking, Crowell obtained a CDL by taking a test at an Alabama State Troopers Office. In order to prepare for the CDL test, Crowell practiced driving tractor trailer rigs on the back lot at Rhett Butler Trucking. No one in particular trained him, but he did practice backing straight, backing in a 90-degree dock, and driving. According to Crowell this training was “just to take the [CDL] test.” Crowell received some training on how to brake a tractor-trailer in dry conditions, but there is no evidence that he was giving training on braking a tractor-trailer in wet conditions.

After obtaining his CDL, Crowell began to train with another driver at Rhett Butler Trucking by riding along on trips. The Rhett Butler Trucking Safety Director gave Crowell numerous safety and training manuals when he started his training. There is no evidence that anyone with Rhett Butler Trucking reviewed these manuals with Crowell or directed Crowell to review them. Undisputed evidence before this Court does establish that Crowell looked through the manuals when they were given to him and was familiar with the regulations concerning how long he could drive before he had to rest.

On the weekend of August 4 and 5, 2001, Rhett Butler Trucking assigned Crowell to drive a tanker load of formaldehyde from River Falls, Alabama to Moncure, North Carolina and then return empty. This trip called for Crowell to driver approximately 1246 miles. Crowell left River Falls for Moncure at approximately 4:00 p.m. central time on Saturday, August 4, 2001. Crowell arrived in Moncure at approximately 6:00 a.m. central time on Sunday, August 5, 2001. While waiting for the truck to be unloaded, Crowell slept for approximately one hour. Crowell then unloaded his truck which took about 45 minutes to an hour and then refueled which took approximately 30 minutes. Crowell then began his return trip to Alabama. It is undisputed that Crowell violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations for the amount of time a commercial driver could drive on this trip and that he admitted this to Rhett Butler Trucking, which told him that he should not have violated the regulations. It is also undisputed that Rhett Butler Trucking knew or should have known of this violation after the accident when Crowell submitted his driving log.

At around 4:30 p.m. central time on Sunday, August 5, 2001, the tractor-tanker truck Crowell was driving for Rhett Butler Trucking collided with a Chevrolet pickup truck in which Plaintiffs were sitting. The collision occurred on Interstate 65 South in Butler County, Alabama. The accident occurred in an area of I-65 where traffic was merging into the right lane because of left-lane construction ahead and where traffic was stopping because of an accident. The area approaching the location where the accident occurred was flat and straight for several miles. At the time of the accident, it was raining lightly and the road was wet. Shortly before the collision, Plaintiffs’ vehicle passed the truck Crowell was driving. Shortly after passing Crowell, Plaintiff Michael Maendele saw that traffic about 1/2 mile ahead of him was stopping and he began to brake when he was about 300 to 400 yards from the end of the stopped line of vehicles. While he was braking, he was watching in his rearview mirror to make sure that Crowell could see he was stopping. Crowell applied his brakes and tried to steer his rig into the median, but he was unable to stop the forward movement of his rig and the tanker trailer struck Plaintiffs’ vehicle.

At his deposition, Crowell could not recall if he had violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations for the amount of time a commercial driver could drive on trips he made before the accident. Rhett Butler Trucking destroyed the driver’s logs for such trips prior to the initiation of this lawsuit. Despite some awareness of potential claims arising out of the accident, Rhett Butler Trucking maintained the records relating to Crowell’s driving only for the six months required by federal law. Crowell’s copy of the log was lost when he moved his residence.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate “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.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). “An issue of fact is ‘genuine’ if the record as a whole could lead a reasonable trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party. An issue is ‘material’ if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing law.” Redwing Carriers, Inc. v. Saraland Apartments, 94 F.3d 1489, 1496 (11th Cir.1996) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)).

The party asking for summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,’ which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact, or by showing the non-moving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-23.

Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56(e) “requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,’ designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” ‘ Id. at 324. To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). On the other hand, a court ruling on a motion for summary judgment must believe the evidence of the non-movant and must draw all justifiable inferences from the evidence in the non-moving party’s favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255. After the nonmoving party has responded to the motion for summary judgment, the court must grant summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). However, where as here, the Court finds that genuine issues of material fact exist, the moving party is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

DISCUSSION

By their motion, Defendants seek summary judgment on three of Plaintiffs’ claims: (1) improper maintenance and inspection of the tractor trailer (see Compl. at ¶ ¶ 11(b), (d) & (e)); (2) improper training of drivers (see Compl. at ¶ 11(c)); and (3) failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable and prudent businessperson would have exercised under similar circumstances (see Compl. at ¶ 11(f)). Plaintiffs concede that summary judgment is due to be entered on the first of these three claims–the improper maintenance and inspection of the tractor trailer. On the record before this Court, there is no question that Defendants’ are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on this claim and that there are no genuine issues as to any fact material to this claims. For this reason, the Court will grant Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ claims arising out of alleged improper maintenance and inspection of the tractor trailer as set forth in the Complaint in paragraphs 11(b), (d) & (e).

With respect to the claims of alleged improper training of drivers and alleged failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable and prudent businessperson would have exercised under similar circumstances, Defendants argue that summary judgment is appropriate because Plaintiffs cannot offer any evidence of failure to exercise due care in the operation of Rhett Butler’s business and cannot demonstrate that Rhett Butler knew or should have known that Crowell was inadequately trained.

Plaintiffs contend that summary judgment is not appropriate due to the existence of genuine issues of material fact with respect to these claims. Specifically, Plaintiffs argue that Crowell’s training on driving and braking in wet conditions was inadequate. Plaintiffs further contend that Crowell’s training on the length of time he could drive and the length of rest periods between driving as set forth in the applicable federal regulations was inadequate. Finally, Plaintiffs assert that Rhett Butler Trucking failed to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable and prudent businessperson would exercise because it failed to ensure that its drivers, specifically Crowell, complied with the driving-time limits set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In seeking to establish that genuine issues of material fact exist, Plaintiffs rely heavily on Rhett Butler Trucking’s actions after the accident. For example, they argue that Rhett Butler Trucking failed to discipline Crowell for violating the driving-time limits set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration during the trip which culminated with the accident at the heart of this action and that Crowell was sent on another trip within a week after the accident. Plaintiffs argue that Defendants improperly destroyed Crowell’s driving records for trips prior to the accident and claim that the destruction of these records constitutes spoilation of evidence warranting an inference that the records would have supported Plaintiffs’ claims against Rhett Butler Trucking.

Failure to Train

The parties do not dispute the amount or types of training Crowell received from Rhett Butler Trucking prior to the accident, but they disagree about how to characterize the adequacy of the training. Plaintiffs contend that the training was inadequate. Defendants assert that it was extensive. The question for this Court is whether, on these facts, Plaintiffs can satisfy the elements of a claim that Rhett Butler Trucking negligently failed to train Crowell.

It is plain that Alabama law provides that an employer may be directly liable for its own negligent failure to train its employee in addition to being vicariously liable for the acts of its employee pursuant to a respondeat superior theory of liability. See, e.g., Poplin v. Bestway Express, 286 F.Supp.2d 1316 (M.D.Ala.2003) (holding that Alabama law allowed a corporation that has admitted that an alleged tortfeasor was its agent and was acting within the scope of his agency to proceed under alternate theories of recovery including a claim under the doctrine of respondeat superior and torts of negligent entrustment, hiring, supervision, training, or retention). For this reason, the fact that Plaintiffs are making a claim against Rhett Butler Trucking for Crowell’s alleged negligence in paragraph 11(a), does not preclude them from also seeking to hold Rhett Butler Trucking directly liable for its own alleged negligent training of Crowell. However, a claim of negligent training or supervision under Alabama law requires a showing that the master had notice or knowledge, either actual or presumed, of the inadequacy of the training or supervision prior to the time when it allegedly resulted in harm to the plaintiff. See, e.g., Big B, Inc. v. Cottingham, 634 So.2d 999 (Ala.1993). For example, the Alabama Supreme Court has held that it was proper to send a claim of negligent hiring and supervision of a retail store manager to the jury where the retail store did not review training manuals with the manager or otherwise train him prior to the incident and where the retail store was aware of a similar incident of misconduct by the manager prior to the incident giving rise to the lawsuit. Id. at 1003-04.

For purposes of this motion, the Court assumes that there is no evidence that Rhett Butler Trucking provided Crowell with any training whatsoever on driving and braking in wet conditions. Nevertheless, the Court cannot find that Plaintiff has offered sufficient evidence to send a negligent training claim to the jury based solely on the inadequacy of this training. Simply put, there is no evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Rhett Butler Trucking knew or should have known that Crowell’s training on driving and braking in wet conditions was inadequate. Accordingly, summary judgment is due to be granted on that claim.

With respect to Plaintiffs’ claim that Rhett Butler Trucking provided Crowell with inadequate training with respect to driving-time limits set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the question is a closer one. It is undisputed that Rhett Butler Trucking provided Crowell with various manuals relating to safe driving and regulations governing driving, but there is no evidence that Rhett Butler Trucking reviewed the manuals with Crowell. In that respect this case is like Big B, Inc. v. Cottingham where the Court faulted a corporation for failing to review its policies and manuals with an employee who allegedly falsely imprisoned a customer.

Of course, the holding in Big B was based not only on this failure to review policies, but also on the fact that a prior incident of misconduct involving the same employee had occurred which could or should have put the corporation on notice that he needed greater training or supervision. Plaintiffs have absolutely no evidence of any incident of Crowell driving longer than federal regulations permitted prior to the accident at issue in this lawsuit. Moreover, Plaintiffs have absolutely no evidence that Rhett Butler Trucking was aware of any incident of Crowell driving longer than federal regulations permitted prior to the accident such that Rhett Butler Trucking could be said to be on notice that he required additional training on the requirements of those regulations. While Plaintiffs contend that they are entitled to an adverse inference based on Rhett Butler Trucking’s failure to preserve the driving logs for Crowell’s driving prior to the accident, such an inference is not warranted based on the evidence before this Court. See, e.g., Bashir v. Amtrak, 119 F.3d 929 (11th Cir.1997) (“In this circuit, an adverse inference is drawn from a party’s failure to preserve evidence only when the absence of evidence is predicated on bad faith.”). For these reasons, Defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment as to Plaintiffs’ claims based upon Rhett Butler Trucking’s failure to adequately train Crowell is due to be granted.

Failure to Exercise Reasonable Care in the Operation of the Business

In paragraph 11(f) of the Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Rhett Butler Trucking negligently failed to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable and prudent businessperson would have exercised under similar circumstances. The nature of this claim is not entirely clear from this allegation, but in opposition to Defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment, Plaintiffs elaborate on this claim explaining that this claim is predicated on Rhett Butler Trucking’s alleged negligent failure to enforce federal regulations with respect to driving-time limits set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that Rhett Butler Trucking failed to make Crowell comply with these regulations. Of course, for any such negligence to be actionable it must have proximately caused the accident at issue. Accordingly, the Court must examine evidence of Rhett Butler Trucking’s conduct prior to the accident as opposed to after the accident. Moreover, the Court finds that, as articulated, this claim is best characterized as a negligent supervision claim. Specifically, it is a claim that Rhett Butler Trucking negligently supervised Crowell’s driving and failed to realize that Crowell was violating federal regulations.

Like Plaintiffs’ claim for negligent training, Alabama law requires a negligent supervision claim to be predicated upon some basis for finding that the employer had notice or knowledge, either actual or presumed, of the inadequacy of the supervision prior to the time when it allegedly resulted in harm to the plaintiff. See, e.g., Big B, Inc. v. Cottingham, 634 So.2d 999 (Ala.1993). Plaintiffs have not offered evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that this requisite element of a negligent supervision claim is satisfied. Accordingly, summary judgment is appropriate on this claim.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ORDERED that the Defendants’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. # 46) is GRANTED. Plaintiffs’ remaining claims against Defendants are unaffected by this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

PQ Corp. v. Langer Transport

United States District Court,

E.D. Pennsylvania.

PQ CORPORATION

v.

LANGER TRANSPORT CORPORATION

June 8, 2005.

 

ORDER-MEMORANDUM

 

PADOVA, J.

AND NOW, this 8th day of June, 2005, upon consideration of Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 30), Plaintiff’s Response thereto, and all attendant and responsive briefing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that said Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART as follows:

1. By agreement of the parties, Defendant’s Motion is GRANTED with respect to Plaintiff’s common law claims in Count I (negligence), Count II (breach of contract), and Count III (indemnification), and these claims are DISMISSED.

2. Defendant’s Motion is DENIED with respect to Plaintiff’s Carmack Amendment claim in Count I.

This case involves a contaminated load of sodium silicate manufactured by Plaintiff PQ Corporation and tendered to Defendant Langer Transport Corporation for transport in a tank trailer from Chester, Pennsylvania to Plaintiff’s customer, Nyacol, in Ashland, Massachusetts. Plaintiff asserts that the sodium silicate load was contaminated by the residue from a non-compatible product that Defendant had previously transported in the unwashed trailer. Plaintiff seeks recovery under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706, which governs the liability of common carriers in interstate commerce, for damages to those goods and to Nyacol’s facility. [FN1] Presently before the Court is Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Summary Judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

FN1. Plaintiff has compensated Nyacol for its damages.

Defendant argues that it is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law because Plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case under the Carmack Amendment. To establish a prima facie case against a common carrier under the Carmack Amendment, the shipper must prove “(1) delivery of goods to the … carrier in good condition, (2) damage of the goods before delivery to their final destination, and (3) the amount of the damages.” Beta Spawn, Inc. v. FFE Transp. Servs., Inc., 250 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir.2001) (citation omitted). Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiff can establish that the sodium silicate load was damaged before its delivery to Nyacol. Nor does Defendant dispute that Plaintiff can precisely establish its monetary damages, although Defendant obviously takes issue with the actual amount of the loss suffered by Plaintiff in this case. Defendant argues only that Plaintiff has failed to prove that it delivered the sodium silicate load to Defendant in good condition. Specifically, Defendant contends that the uncontroverted evidence shows that Plaintiff did not release the sodium silicate load for delivery by Defendant until Plaintiff’s loading dock employee signed a Certificate of Analysis and created the bill of lading. (Hastings Dep. at 115-117.) By that point in time, the sodium silicate had already been loaded into Defendant’s tank trailer and exposed to the any residue contained therein. Thus, Defendant maintains that Plaintiff did not “deliver” the sodium silicate in good condition because any contamination of product occurred prior to Plaintiff’s release of the loaded shipment for delivery.

Defendant is correct that, as a general matter, the “delivery” of goods for shipment takes place when “there [is] no further action required by [the shipper] before transportation of the shipment by [the carrier]. At that point, [the shipper] release[s] the trailer to [the carrier] for immediate transportation and [the carrier] ha[s] complete and exclusive control of the goods.” Conair Corp. v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 22 F.3d 529, 532 (3d Cir.1994). However, Defendant implicitly concedes, and the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff independently confirms, that the sodium silicate was uncontaminated prior to being loaded into the tank trailer, and that the residue in the tank trailer was the exclusive source of any contamination to the product. Under these circumstances, courts have concluded that “delivery” occurs at the time of the initial loading. Compare Conair, 22 F.3d at 532 (determining delivery from point of release of shipment where damage to goods caused by third-party theft) with Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Corp. v. Ill. Cent. Gulf R.R. Co., 615 F.2d 470, 475-76 (8th Cir.1980) (rejecting carrier’s contention that its liability did not commence until bill of lading issued where goods were uncontaminated at time of loading). As Plaintiff has raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether it delivered the sodium silicate to Defendant in good condition, Defendant’s Motion is denied in this respect.

Once a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of liability under the Carmack Amendment, “the burden shifts to the carrier to prove that it was free from negligence and that the damage was caused solely by ‘(a) the act of God; (b) the public enemy; (c) the act of the shipper [it]self; (d) public authority; (e) or the inherent vice or nature of the goods.” ‘ Beta Spawn, 250 F.3d at 226 (quoting Mo. Pac. R.R. Co. v. Elmore & Stahl, 377 U.S. 134, 137, 84 S.Ct. 1142, 12 L.Ed.2d 194 (1964)); see also Martin Imps. v. Courier-Newsom Express, Inc., 580 F.2d 240, 242 (7th Cir.1978) (observing that “the law places upon the carrier a substantial double burden in order to avoid liability”). Defendant argues that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because it was free from negligence and the damage at issue was caused solely by the acts of Plaintiff. Defendant contends that it merely had a contractual duty to provide Plaintiff with a certificate indicating whether or not the truck has been cleaned. Although there is no dispute that Defendant provided Plaintiff with a certificate indicating that the truck had not been cleaned in this case, Plaintiff has produced sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that Defendant knew that it had to provide Plaintiff with a clean truck for the shipment of sodium silicate in situations where, as here, the last product transported by Defendant’s truck was not sodium silicate. For example, William Reeder, Plaintiff’s Logistics Planning Supervisor, testified that he had “multiple conversations” with Robert Langer, Defendant’s Chief Financial Officer, in which he instructed Langer that “[Defendant] was to wash trucks unless they were ‘top-loading,’ meaning loading [Plaintiff’s] sodium silicate on top of a prior load of [Plaintiff’s] sodium silicate.” (Reeder Aff. ¶ ¶ 2-3.) On December 19, 2000, Langer sent an e-mail to Reeder providing him with a price quote for the shipment of sodium silicate and advising him that the shipment “would be subject to the $100 cleaning charge per our Contract if top-loading is not applicable.” (Pl.’s Ex. E.) Leonard Butler, who is employed by Defendant as a truck dispatcher, testified that he could not recall ever “filling out a wash certificate that said the trailer had not been washed and dispatching [the trailer]” when “the prior product was not the same product being shipped as the current load [he] w[as] sending out.” (Butler Dep. at 44.) As Plaintiff has raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Defendant had a tort-based duty [FN2] to provide Plaintiff with a clean truck under the circumstances of the instant case, Defendant’s Motion is denied in this respect. [FN3]

FN2. Because the Court concludes that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Defendant had a tort duty to provide a clean truck under the circumstances of this case, the Court need not resolve Plaintiff’s contention that Defendant also had an express contractual duty to provide a clean truck. See Roc-Noc Indus., Inc. v. Kenneth Schuck Trucking, Inc., Civ. A. No. 93-5098, 1994 WL 665558, at 11 (E.D.Pa. Nov. 21, 1994) (holding that carrier acted negligently by failing to follow shipper’s verbal instructions, even though no such instructions appeared in bill of lading); see also Project Hope v. M/V IBN Sina, 96 F.Supp.2d 285, 295 (S.D.N.Y.2000) (“A carrier’s duty to provide suitable transportation flows from its obligation to care for the cargo entrusted to its possession, and not from the form of documentation it receives.”), aff’d in part, vacated in part, 250 F.3d 67 (2d Cir.2001).

FN3. Defendant also argues that, even if it did act negligently in failing to provide a clean truck, Plaintiff’s decision to accept the unclean truck was the superseding cause of the damages suffered in this case. A plaintiff’s intervening acts may constitute a superseding cause and thus relieve the defendant from liability where the acts are “so extraordinary as to not have been reasonably foreseeable.” Singleton-Stone v. Amquip Corp., Civ. A. No. 98-4691, 2000 WL 1448817, at *3 (E.D.Pa. Sept. 29, 2000) (quoting Parks v. Allied Signal, Inc., 113 F.3d 1327, 1334 (3d Cir.1997)). Viewing the record evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, a factfinder could reasonably conclude that Plaintiff’s decision to accept the unclean truck did not have such intervening force as to constitute the superseding cause of the loss. Id. Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion is denied in this respect.

Defendant alternatively seeks partial summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff’s damages under the Carmack Amendment. Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s damages should, as a matter of law, be limited to the diminished value of the contaminated shipment because Defendant could not have reasonably foreseen the damages to Nyacol’s facility. The Carmack Amendment states that carriers are subject to “liability … for the actual loss or injury to the property” transported. 49 U.S.C. § 14706. “Despite the apparent statutory limitation to recovery of damage caused to property itself transported,’ the Supreme Court ‘from its earliest interpretation has consistently construed the Amendment’ as imposing much more.” Am. Nat’l Fire Ins. Co. v. Yellow Freight Sys., Inc., 325 F.3d 924, 931 (7th Cir.2003) (quoting Air Products & Chems., Inc. v. Ill. Cent. Gulf R.R. Co., 721 F.2d 483, 485 (5th Cir.1983)). “In the words of the Supreme Court, the Carmack Amendment is ‘comprehensive enough to embrace all damages resulting from any failure to discharge a carrier’s duty with respect to any part of the transportation to the agreed destination,” ‘ id. (quoting Southeastern Express Co. v. Pastime Amusement Co., 299 U.S. 28, 29, 57 S.Ct. 73, 81 L.Ed. 20 (1936)), including all reasonably foreseeable consequential damages. Air Products, 721 F.2d at 485. Foreseeability is a “primarily factual determination.” Id. at 488.

The Court concludes that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Plaintiff’s damages should be limited to the loss of sodium silicate load. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, Defendant knew it had a duty to provide Plaintiff with a clean truck for the shipment of the sodium silicate load because the previous load transported in the truck was incompatible with sodium silicate. Thus, a reasonable juror could conclude that Defendant had been put on actual notice that the sodium silicate load required “special handling of some kind,” Paper Magic Group, Inc. v. J.B. Hunt Transp., Inc., 318 F.3d 458, 462 (3d Cir.2003) (citation omitted), and that Defendant’s failure to comply with those special handling requirements would foreseeably result not only in contamination of the transported product, but also in contamination of the facility to which the product was delivered by Defendant. See Air Products, 721 F.2d at 488 (holding that carrier was liable for cost of decontaminating large storage tank, the entire contents of which was contaminated after carrier delivered incorrect product to consignee, because “even without knowing the exact properties of the chemicals delivered, the [carrier’s] employees should reasonably have anticipated … that a mixture of chemicals would result in contamination of the entire contents of the large storage tank”); V.R. Compounding Corp. v. Occidental Chem. Corp., Civ. A. No. 99-8087, 2000 WL 1368045, at 4 (N.D.Ill. Sept.15, 2000) (suggesting that carrier may be liable under Carmack Amendment for environmental contamination that resulted from spillage of chemicals during unloading). Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion is denied in this respect.

For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

© 2017 Central Analysis Bureau