United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
October 7, 2004.
MITSUI SUMITOMO INSURANCE CO. LTD., a/s/o SHARP ELECTRONICS CORP., and SHARP ELECTRONICS CORP., Plaintiffs,
WATKINS MOTOR LINES, INC., Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge
This matter is before the court on Plaintiffs Mitsui Sumitomo
Insurance Co., Ltd.'s ("Mitsui") and Sharp Electronics Corp.'s
("Sharp") renewed motion for summary judgment and on Defendant
Watkins Motor Lines, Inc.'s ("Watkins") partial motion for
summary judgment to limit liability. For the reasons stated
below, we grant Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. We also
deny Watkins' partial motion for summary judgment without
The majority facts in this action are not contested. Defendant
Watkins is engaged in business as a motor carrier. Plaintiffs hired Watkins
to transport a shipment of projectors and allege that on April
30, 2001, Watkins received from Sharp a shipment of twenty-three
projectors with an invoice value of $85,100. Watkins failed to
deliver the projectors to the intended destination. Watkins
contends however, that it is not liable because Sharp did not
file a claim with Watkins in a timely fashion. Watkins also
claims that under the terms of the bill of lading and
incorporated tariff for the projectors, Watkins has only limited
liability for the loss.
Summary judgment is appropriate when the record reveals that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R. Civ. P.
56(c). In seeking a grant of summary judgment the moving party
must identify "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 Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R. Civ. P.
56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting
specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an
absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case."
Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving
party cannot simply rest on the allegations or denials in the
pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(e).
A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment
is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts."
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact
exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip
Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must
consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the
non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences that favor
the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v.
Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).
I. Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment
Plaintiffs argue that Watkins was the initial carrier who had
control and custody of the projectors when the loss occurred and
thus Watkins is liable for the loss. Plaintiffs argue that
Watkins is liable under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706,
to the Interstate Commerce Act. The Seventh Circuit has stated
that "[t]he Carmack Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme
Court and this Court to provide 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 Exp., Inc.,
102 F.3d 914, 916 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Jos. Schlitz
Brewing Co. v. Transcon Lines, 757 F.2d 171, 176 (7th Cir.
1985)). See also American Nat. Fire Ins. Co. v. Yellow Freight
Sys., Inc. 325 F.3d 924, 929 (7th Cir. 2003) (stating that
the Carmack Amendment "provides shippers with the statutory right
to recover for actual losses to their property caused by
carriers.") (quoting Allied Tube & Conduit Corp. v. S. Pac.
Transp. Co., 211 F.3d 367, 369 (7th Cir. 2000)). Watkins argues
that there are genuinely disputed facts regarding whether or not
Plaintiffs gave notice to Watkins of the loss by filing a claim
with Watkins in a timely fashion. The Carmack Amendment provides
[a] carrier may not provide by rule, contract, or
otherwise, a period of less than 9 months for filing
a claim against it under this section and a period of
less than 2 years for bringing a civil action against
it under this section. The period for bringing a
civil action is computed from the date the carrier
gives a person written notice that the carrier has
disallowed any part of the claim specified in the
49 U.S.C. § 14706(e)(1). Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 14706(e) and
49 C.F.R. § 370.3(c), a claimant shipper generally "must file a
written or electronic claim with the carrier within at least nine
months." Neely v. Mayflower Transit, LLC, 2003 WL 23648655, at
*2 (N.D. Ill. 2003). Watkins claims that it picked up the
projectors on April 30, 2001, and did not receive a claim form
from Sharp until March 19, 2002. Watkins argues that since
Plaintiffs did not provide Watkins with written notice of the
claim within the required period, Plaintiffs' claim is barred. Watkins cites Hopper Paper Co. v. Baltimore & O.R. Co.,
178 F.2d 179
, 182 (7th Cir. 1950). In Hopper the court noted
that the "statute is a limitation law, . . . that . . . was not
intended to operate as a statute of limitation . . . and that the
general rule in cases . . . is, that failure to give notice of a
claim for damages or loss in accordance with a stipulation in a
contract for the shipment of goods is excused, or is
inapplicable, where the carrier has or is chargeable with actual
knowledge of all the conditions as to the damages that a written
notice could give." Id. However, the court in Hopper did not
rule that written notice is required. The court explained that in
the case before it, since the "defendant and its agents were
fully aware and cognizant of the existence of all the facts
concerning the [damage,] . . . a formal notice by plaintiff to
the defendant could not have accomplished anything more." Id.
The court held that the defendant carrier could "not use the
provisions of the bill of lading to shield itself from the
liability imposed upon it by the statute and the common law for
its negligent destruction of the shipper's property." Id.
Watkins claims that it picked up the projectors on April 30,
2001, and did not receive a claim form from Sharp until March 19,
2002. Plaintiffs argue that there is sufficient evidence that
Watkins was aware of the loss of the projectors and the facts
surrounding the loss long before the nine month period expired.
Plaintiffs state that "[i]n the instant matter there is no
dispute that WATKINS had actual knowledge that the shipment was
lost and/or had been stolen since the disappearance of the
shipment." (P. Mot. Reply 7). These circumstances in the instant
action are similar to those in William Wrigley, Jr. Co. v. Stanley Transp., Inc.,
121 F.Supp.2d 670 (N.D. Ill. 2000). In Wrigley the plaintiff's
goods were stolen from the carrier's truck. Id. at at 671. The
court in Wrigley held that since the defendant carrier was
aware that the products in question had been stolen, the carrier
had actual notice which was sufficient to meet the requirement
elucidated in Hopper. Id. at 672. Similarly, in the instant
action, Watkins admits pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 to numerous
facts that indicate that Watkins' employees were aware that the
projectors were lost long before Sharp filed a claim. Watkins
admits to the existence of various documents that were prepared
by Watkins' employees documenting the disappearance of the
projectors. Watkins also admits that Thomas Madigan, an employee
of Watkins, reported the disappearance of the projectors to the
Lyons Police Department prior to the nine month period. (P Mot. R
SF 23, 24). Thus, based on this and other evidence, no reasonable
trier of fact could find that Watkins did not have sufficient
notice of the disappearance of the projectors prior to the end of
the nine month period. Therefore, we grant Plaintiffs' motion for
II. Watkins' Motion For Summary Judgment
Watkins argues that under the terms of the bill of lading and
incorporated tariff for the projectors Plaintiffs' recovery is
limited to $25.00 per pound. We cannot make proper ruling on
Watkins' motion at this juncture. Although the parties make reference to various facts in their briefs, neither side
included more than a cursory statement of facts in their briefs.
In addition, neither Watkins nor Plaintiffs have complied with
Local Rule 56.1 and filed statements of facts and responses.
Without being presented with all the pertinent facts and without
clarification as to which facts are contested facts as is
required by Local Rule 56.1, we cannot make a proper ruling on
Watkins' motions. Having failed to comply with Local Rule 56.1,
we deny Watkins' motion for summary judgment without prejudice.
See Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920, 922
(7th Cir. 1994) (stating a local rule pertaining to summary
judgment "is more than a technicality"); Ammons v. Aramark
Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004) (stating
"that a district court is entitled to expect strict compliance
with Rule 56.1." and that "[s]ubstantial compliance is not strict
Watkins must file any other motion for summary judgment by
November 1, 2004. If Watkins does not file a motion for summary
judgment by that date, we shall enter final judgment in this
action and terminate the case. Watkins is warned that a failure
to abide by the requirements of Local Rule 56.1 in regards to a
future motion for summary judgment will result in a denial of the
motion with prejudice. Plaintiffs are also warned that a failure
to follow court rules and procedures could result in sanctions.
If Watkins files a motion for summary judgment, the answer brief
will be due on November 15, 2004, and the reply brief will be due
on November 22, 2004. CONCLUSION
Based on the foregoing analysis, we grant Plaintiffs' motion
for summary judgment. We also deny Watkins' partial motion for
summary judgment without prejudice.
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