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Walters v. DHL Express

May 14, 2007

JAMES WALTERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DHL EXPRESS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States District Judge

OPINION and ORDER

Before the Court is the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by Defendant, DHL Express, on February 5, 2007 [Doc. 21]. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

On March 25, 2005, Plaintiff, James Walters, arranged for his ex-wife, Vikki Choate, to ship five boxes from Beech Island, South Carolina to Pekin, Illinois using Defendant, DHL Express, as the carrier. According to Walters, the boxes arrived in a damaged condition and various items were either missing or damaged. These items included compact disks, clothing, video disks (DVDs), papers, photographs, and a Carlton Sheets real estate package. Walters seeks compensation for the missing and/or destroyed items.

In this Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Defendant only seeks judgment on Plaintiff's damages. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's damages are limited to the actual cash value of the missing/destroyed items, or $100.00 (per box), whichever is less. Defendant states that Plaintiff's damages are limited as the insurance agreement entered into by the parties limits its damages to the above amounts. Plaintiff, on the other hand, asserts that he purchased additional insurance, in the amount of $2000 per box, prior to shipment.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment should be granted where "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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court as to portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

Once the movant has met its burden, to survive summary judgment the "non-movant must show through specific evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on issues on which [s]he bears the burden of proof at trial." Warsco v. Preferred Tech. Group, 258 F.3d 557, 563 (7th Cir. 2001); See also Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-24. "The non-movant may not rest upon mere allegations in the pleadings or upon conclusory statements in affidavits; it must go beyond the pleadings and support its contentions with proper documentary evidence." Chemsource, Inc. v. Hub Group, Inc., 106 F.3d 1358, 1361 (7th Cir. 1997). This Court must nonetheless "view the record and all inferences drawn from it in the light most favorable to the [non-moving party]." Holland v. Jefferson Nat. Life Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 1307, 1312 (7th Cir. 1989). In doing so, this Court is not "required to draw every conceivable inference from the record -- only those inferences that are reasonable." Bank Leumi Le-Isreal, B.M. v. Lee, 928 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir. 1991). Therefore, if the record before the court "could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party," then no genuine issue of material fact exists and, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. McClendon v. Indiana Sugars, Inc., 108 F.3d 789, 796 (7th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). However, in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court may not weigh the evidence or resolve issues of fact; disputed facts must be left for resolution at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986).

Common carrier liability is governed by the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 14706. The Carmack Amendment provides, in relevant part:

A carrier providing transportation or service . . . shall issue a receipt or bill of lading for property it receives for transportation under this part. That carrier . . . [is] liable to the person entitled to recover under the receipt or bill of lading. The liability imposed under this paragraph is for the actual loss or injury to the property caused by [the carrier].

49 U.S.C. § 14706(a)(1).

A carrier can, however, limit its liability:

A carrier providing transportation or service . . . may . . . establish rates for the transportation of property . . . under which the liability of the carrier for such property is limited to a value established by written or electronic declaration of the shipper or by written agreement between the carrier and shipper if ...


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