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Riduco, S.A. v. A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S

December 7, 2009

RIDUCO, S.A., COLOMBIA CORPORATION, AND BEST USED MACHINERY CO., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
A.P. MOLLER-MAERSK A/S, A DANISH CORPORATION, AND NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILWAY, INC., A VIRGINIA CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George W. Lindberg

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court are plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, defendant A.P. MollerMaersk's ("Maersk") motion for summary judgment, and defendant Norfolk Southern Railway's ("Norfolk Southern") motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, plaintiffs' motion is denied, and Maersk's and Norfolk Southern's motions are granted.

I. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff Riduco, S.A. ("Riduco") is a Colombian company that manufactures plastic and metal products. In May 2006, Riduco bought an industrial plastics injection machine from plaintiff Best Used Machinery Co. ("BUMCO"). Riduco and/or BUMCO arranged with Global Marine Transportation ("Global Marine"), a freight transportation broker, to ship the machine from Ohio to Colombia. Global Marine contracted with defendant Maersk, an international shipping company, to transport the machine. Maersk, in turn, arranged for defendant Norfolk Southern to transport the machine by rail from Ohio to South Carolina.

The machine was shipped in multiple pieces, in multiple containers. Maersk initially accepted the containers, and then the containers were loaded onto a Norfolk Southern train. On May 26, 2006, the Norfolk Southern train derailed in Tennessee, and one of the containers sustained damage. After the derailment, some of the contents of that container were salvaged, and eventually were transported to Riduco in Colombia.

Plaintiffs' fourth amended complaint alleges claims against Maersk and Norfolk Southern for breach of contract and of duties under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 11706. Riduco dismissed the claims it previously had filed against Global Marine. The parties agree that federal jurisdiction exists, either pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 or § 1332. Plaintiffs, Maersk, and Norfolk Southern all have filed motions for summary judgment.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment shall be granted "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that no material issue exists for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has properly supported its motion, the nonmoving party must offer specific facts demonstrating that a material dispute exists, and must present more than a scintilla of evidence to support its position. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Where the parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, the court "considers the merits of each cross-motion separately and draws all reasonable inferences and resolves all factual uncertainties against the party whose motion is under consideration." Murray v. HSBC Auto Fin., Inc., No. 05 C 4040, 2006 WL 2861954, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 27, 2006); see also McKinney v. Cadleway Properties, Inc., 548 F.3d 496, 504 n.4 (7th Cir. 2008).

III. Analysis

The court first considers whether the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act applies to the shipment in this case. Defendants take the position that the Carmack Amendment does not apply because the shipment was an international and intermodal*fn1 shipment covered by a "through" bill of lading,*fn2 citing Capitol Converting Equip., Inc. v. LEP Transp., Inc., 965 F.2d 391 (7th Cir. 1992). Plaintiffs do not dispute that a through bill of lading governed the shipment, but argue that the Carmack Amendment nevertheless applies to the shipment here. This issue is significant because according to defendants, if the Carmack Amendment does not apply, a one-year time bar precludes plaintiffs' claims. By contrast, plaintiffs' claims would be timely under the Carmack Amendment's minimum two-year statute of limitations. See 49 U.S.C. § 11706(e).

The relevant provision of the Carmack Amendment provides:

A rail carrier providing transportation or service subject to the jurisdiction of the [Surface Transportation] Board under this part shall issue a receipt or bill of lading for property it receives for transportation under this part. That rail carrier and any other carrier that delivers the property and is providing transportation or service subject to the jurisdiction of the [Surface Transportation] Board under this part are liable to the person entitled to recover under the receipt or bill of lading.

The liability imposed under this subsection is for the actual loss or injury to the property caused by-

(1) the receiving rail carrier;

(2) the delivering rail carrier; or

(3) another rail carrier over whose line or route the property is transported in the United States or from a place in the United States to a place in an adjacent foreign country ...


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