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Camp v. TNT Logistics Corp.

January 14, 2009


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 04 C 1358-Joe Billy McDade, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Manion, Circuit Judge


Before RIPPLE, MANION, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

Lola Camp brought this diversity action against TNT Logistics Corp. ("TNT") and Trelleborg YSH, Inc. ("Trelleborg"), seeking to recover damages for injuries she sustained as a result of their alleged negligence in connection with the shipment of a pallet of automobile parts. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. Camp appeals. We affirm, although on partially different grounds than those relied upon by the district court.

I. Background

During the relevant time period, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. ("Mitsubishi") manufactured automobiles using an efficient and cost-effective "just-in-time" inventory system. Under this system, automotive parts from suppliers were delivered to plants "just in time" to be used on assembly lines. TNT provided logistics services to Mitsubishi, coordinating the purchase and transportation of automobile parts from suppliers as Mitsubishi's needs arose. TNT contracted with DeKeyser Express, Inc. ("DeKeyser"), a motor carrier service provider, to transport the parts. Camp worked for Transport Leasing Company ("TLC"). TLC leased Camp's services as a tractor-trailer driver to DeKeyser.

On January 21, 2003, TNT directed DeKeyser to transport some parts from several suppliers (one of which was Trelleborg) to Mitsubishi's factory in Normal, Illinois. DeKeyser dispatched Camp to make the pick-ups and delivery. The next day Camp arrived at Trelleborg's facility, which was the final stop on her route. At Trelleborg's loading dock, Camp noticed that the three pallets of parts scheduled for pick-up would fit inside the trailer only if the third pallet was stacked on top of one of the other two pallets. Camp was concerned that the load "would not ride" (i.e., that the unsecured pallet might shift due to the vacant space next to it and be damaged). She told Trelleborg personnel of her concern and contacted DeKeyser dispatcher Ken Kasprzak and TNT transport supervisor Alan Marten to advise them of the problem. Marten contacted Dave Finck, TNT's on-site liaison at Mitsubishi's Normal, Illinois factory. After the conversation with Finck, Marten advised Camp and Kasprzak that TNT wanted the entire load delivered and directed Camp to write on the bill that TNT was aware of the situation and was releasing the shipper (Trelleborg) and the driver (Camp) from responsibility for any cargo damage. Camp then wrote the following on the bill of lading: "Shipper and Driver released of liability for any product damage as called TNT and told them didn't think would ride. Ship anyway per Dave Fink [sic]." After Trelleborg loaded the three pallets, Camp drove to TNT's cross-dock facility located across the street from the Mitsubishi plant. Before backing up to TNT's dock, Camp stopped in the parking lot and opened the right trailer door; when she did, the unsecured third pallet began to fall. When she attempted to close the trailer door to prevent the pallet from falling out, Camp injured her shoulder and arm.

Camp filed suit against TNT and Trelleborg in Illinois state court, asserting a common-law negligence claim against each defendant based upon their alleged acts and omissions in connection with the transport of the unse-cured pallet. The defendants removed the action to the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois by invoking the court's diversity jurisdiction.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on Camp's negligence claims. In doing so, the court rejected Camp's claim that she could hold TNT liable under two provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations ("FMCSR") and found that Camp had not presented sufficient authority in support of her "common law standpoint" argument to survive TNT's motion for summary judgment. The district court also held that Trelleborg was not liable to Camp under the FMCSR and that Trelleborg owed no duty to her in light of Illinois's open and obvious doctrine. Camp appeals.

II. Discussion

Our review of the district court's grant of summary judgment is de novo. Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 767 (7th Cir. 2008). We affirm only if, after viewing all facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant (Camp) and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, we conclude that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the defendants are entitled to judgments as a matter of law. Peirick v. Indiana Univ.-Purdue Univ. Indianapolis Athletics Dep't, 510 F.3d 681, 687 (7th Cir. 2007). In addition, we may affirm on a ground other than that relied upon by the district court as long as the alternative basis has adequate support in the record. Bombard v. Fort Wayne Newspapers, 92 F.3d 560, 562 (7th Cir. 1996).

As a federal court sitting in diversity, we apply state substantive law and federal procedural law. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Because none of the parties raised the choice of law issue, we apply the substantive law of Illinois, the forum state. Wood v. Mid-Valley Inc., 942 F.2d 425, 426 (7th Cir. 1991). Under Illinois law, "[t]o succeed in an action for negligence, a plaintiff must prove facts that establish the existence of a duty, a breach of the duty, and an injury to the plaintiff which was proximately caused by the breach." Hills v. Bridgeview Little League Ass'n, 745 N.E.2d 1166, 1178 (Ill. 2000). Whether a duty of care exists is a question of law for the court to decide, while breach and proximate cause are questions of fact for the fact-finder. Iseberg v. Gross, 879 N.E.2d 278, 284 (Ill. 2007).

A. Statutory Duty

On appeal, Camp first claims that TNT and Trelleborg are liable for negligence based on two provisions of the FMCSR, 49 C.F.R. §§ 390.13 and 392.9(a)(1), which are explained in detail below. Parts 390 and 392 (among several others) of the FMCSR are adopted by reference into the Illinois Vehicle Code by 625 ILCS 5/18b-105(b),*fn1 part of the Illinois Motor Carrier Safety Law. People v. Blackorby, 586 N.E.2d 1231, 1237 (Ill. 1992). "In a common law negligence action, a violation of a statute or ordinance designed to protect human life or property is prima facie evidence of negligence; the violation does not constitute negligence per se." Abbasi ex rel. Abbasi v. Paraskevoulakos, 718 N.E.2d 181, 185 (Ill. 1999). "To recover damages based upon a defendant's alleged statutory violation, a plaintiff must show that (1) she belongs to the class of persons that the statute was designed to protect; (2) her injury is of the type that the statute was designed to ...

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