The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bucklo, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lee Trucking, Inc. ("Lee"), of California, encountered a misfortune
during November 1996, while shipping a load of gum belonging to William
Wrigley, Jr., Co. of Chicago, Illinois, ("Wrigley"), from Fontana,
California, to Garland, Texas, for Stanley Transportation, a Texas
trucking corporation that had a contract with Wrigley. The goods, alleged
to represent about $200,000 worth of gum, never arrived because the
driver, a drug addict, had sold them for $500 to buy crack cocaine.
Wrigley sued Stanley Transportation and Lee Trucking in federal court
under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706, and several state law
causes of action, for damages in the amount of $191,159.51. I dismissed
the state law claims as preempted. R.R. Stanley and Stanley
Transportation now move for summary judgment and cross-claims for
contribution against Lee. Lee, for its part, moves for judgment on the
pleadings against Stanley Transportation, and Wrigley moves for partial
summary judgment against Lee. I grant these motions in part and deny them
in part, but the upshot is that Lee is liable to Wrigley, and must
indemnify Stanley Transportation for anything it must pay, as well as for
reasonable legal expenses, in this case.
First, Wrigley argues that Lee is liable to it under the Carmack
Amendment. The Carmack Amendment provides that "a common carrier is
liable for all losses which occurred while the goods were being
transported by it, unless the carrier can demonstrate it is free from
fault." Pharma Bio, Inc. v. TNT Holland Motor Express, Inc., 102 F.3d 914,
916 (7th Cir. 1996). In order to recover damages under the Carmack
Amendment, a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case by
providing evidence that (i) the goods in question had been delivered to
the carrier in good condition; (ii) the goods had arrived at the final
destination in a damaged or diminished condition; and (iii) the damages
can be specified. See id. (citing Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. v. Elmore
& Stahl, 377 U.S. 134, 138, 84 S.Ct. 1142, 12 L.Ed.2d 194 (1964)).
Once the plaintiff has satisfied these requirements, the defendant
carrier will be liable for damage to the goods in question, unless it can
show that it was flee from negligence and that the damage was caused by
"(a) the act of God; (b) the public enemy; (c) the act of the shipper
himself; (d) public authority; (e) or the
inherent vice or nature of the goods." Missouri Pacific, 377 U.S. at
137, 84 S.Ct. 1142.
Wrigley says that it delivered the property in good condition, that the
goods were never delivered, and none of the exceptions apply. Lee
replies, first, that for a shipper to recover under the Carmack
Amendment, it must have filed a claim with either Stanley Transportation
or Lee under the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading and
49 C.F.R. § 10005.2, but Wrigley did not do these things. Moreover,
it says that Wrigley failed to list Stanley Transportation as the carrier
on the Bill of Lading in compliance with the provisions of the Uniform
Straight Bill of Lading, precluding a finding for Wrigley as a matter of
law. Wrigley responds that it satisfied the requirements by sending a
"Product Claim" dated December 2, 1996, to "Stanley Trucking." Lee says
it never received this claim within the required period for filing a
claim and so was not on notice that its own truck had been robbed and the
contents stolen. Wrigley responds that Lee was on actual notice, and
submits in support of this, among other things, a recorded conversation
of December 9, 1996, between an investigator and Mrs. Lee of Lee
Trucking, in which Mrs. Lee acknowledges the essential facts. No
reasonable trier of fact could conclude otherwise than that Lee was on
notice, and Lee does not dispute that it was in fact on actual notice.
In the Seventh Circuit, actual notice is all that is required. See
Hopper Paper Co. v. Baltimore & OR. Co., 178 F.2d 179, 181 (7th Cir.
1949). Lee notes that Judge Nordberg of this court declined to follow
Hopper Paper, see Taft Equip. Sales Co. v. Ace Transp., Inc.,
851 F. Supp. 1208 (N.D.Ill. 1994), because "the states encompassed in
that jurisdiction have no relation to the facts of this case" and because
"Hopper Paper has been widely criticized by courts in other circuits."
Id. at 1212. However, whatever the circumstances may have been in Taft
Equip. Sales that led the court not to follow Seventh Circuit precedent,
I see no such circumstances here that would justify any such departure.
Moreover, the Seventh Circuit cited Hopper Paper with approval fairly
recently. See Wisconsin Packing Co., Inc. v. Indiana Refrigerator Lines,
Inc., 618 F.2d 441, 447 n. 7 (7th Cir. 1980) ("Hopper" is not the
derelict the dissent implies it is (listing cases where Hopper was
Because Lee had actual notice and that was enough, this disposes of
Lee's arguments that the "Product Claim" was inadequate as a filing.
These arguments will not at any rate hold water. Lee contends, among
other reasons, that the "Product Claim" would not do because it lists the
carrier as "RH.??? Stanley" (an individual) and the consignee is listed
as "Stanley Trucking" rather than as Lee Trucking or Stanley
Transportation. Lee does not contend that these errors caused it any
confusion or would be likely to cause a reasonable person any confusion.
The Carmack Amendment is meant in part "`to relieve shippers of the
difficult, and often impossible, task, of determining on which of the
several connecting lines the damage occurred.'" Tokio Marine and Fire
Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Amato Motors, Inc., 996 F.2d 874, 877 (7th Cir. 1993)
(quoting Missouri, K & T. Ry. v. Ward, 244 U.S. 383, 387, 37 S.Ct.
617, 61 L.Ed. 1213 (1917).). It would frustrate the purpose of the law to
insist on formalistic purity and rigid precision in getting all the "i"'s
dotted and "t's" crossed. This is not a Article Nine security interest
filing, where notice to the world requires ensuring that the names are
just right. The Supreme Court has never required such scrupulous
exactitude in the Carmack Amendment context. See Georgia, Florida, &
Alabama Ry. Co. v. Blish Milling Co., 241 U.S. 190, 198, 36 S.Ct. 541, 60
L.Ed. 948 (1916) (The claim requirement "is addressed to a practical
exigency and it is to be construed in a practical way.").
Finally, Lee disputes whether it ever accepted goods in the amount or
of the value that Wrigley claims, but this is not to the point because
Wrigley asks for summary judgment as to liability, not damages. Therefore
I grant Wrigley summary judgment against Lee on Carmack Amendment
Stanley Transportation cross-claims for contribution against Lee,
alleging three state law bases (counts I-III) and one claim of indemnity
under the Carmack Amendment (count IV). As I have already decided, the
Carmack Amendment claims preempt all the state law claims, and so I deny
Stanley Transportation's motion to recover on any state law basis and
grant Lee's motion for judgment on the pleadings on counts I-III of the
cross-claim. I deny Lee's motion for an extension of time to answer
Stanley Transportation on count IV. The reply was due November 30, 1999,
and it is too late to file an incomplete brief on December 3, 1999,
requesting yet more time. Besides, there is no reply to be made. The
Carmack Amendment clearly states that the consigning carrier "is entitled
to recover from the carrier over whose line or route the loss or injury
occurred the amount required to be paid to the owners of the property" as
well as its reasonable legal expenses. 49 U.S.C. § 14706(b). If the
law were any more clear, it would say, "Lee, pay up." I therefore grant
Stanley Transportations cross-claim for indemnity.
Wrigley's Amended Complaint at Law of February 7, 2000, states no
claims against the individual Robert (HR.) Stanley. No other party has
any claims against RH. Stanley as an individual, and So I dismiss him
from the case, and deny his motion for summary judgment as moot.
In sum, I grant Wrigley summary judgment against Lee on Carmack
Amendment liability. I grant Lee's motion for judgment on the pleadings
on counts I-III of Stanley Transportation's cross-claim (the state law
claims). I deny Lee's motion for an extension of time to answer count
IV, and I grant Stanley Transportation summary judgment on count IV
(indemnity under the Carmack Amendment). I dismiss R.R. Stanley as an
individual from the case, and deny his motion for summary judgment as
moot. I also deny as moot various motions to strike submitted by all
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