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Eastco International Corp. v. Coyote Logistics

December 18, 2009

EASTCO INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COYOTE LOGISTICS, LLC, A LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Blanche M. Manning

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Eastco International Corporation shipped a mold used to produce lighting fixtures from its plant in Illinois to Miniature Plastic Molding in Ohio. But the mold never arrived. Eastco has now sued Coyote Logistics, LLC, the company it hired to transport the missing mold, seeking damages under both the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, see 49 U.S.C. § 14706, as well as a state law claim of negligence. Coyote has moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that (1) it hired another company-Vitran Express-to actually transport the mold and therefore only Vitran is liable for the loss, and (2) the complaint fails to allege a basis for Eastco's state law negligence claim. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is denied as to the Carmack Amendment claim (Count I) and granted as to the state law negligence claim (Count II).

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Eastco's amended complaint and exhibits attached thereto, and are accepted as true for purposes of this motion to dismiss. See County of McHenry v. Ins. Co. of the W., 438 F.3d 813, 817 (7th Cir. 2006).

In July 2008, an Eastco employee contacted Coyote to obtain a quote for shipping a four cavity mold to Miniature Plastic Molding in Ohio. Coyote's employee quoted a price of $110.00. Eastco accepted the quote and hired Coyote to ship the mold by completing a Straight Bill of Lading-Short Form that provided the details of the shipment and its destination. The Bill of Lading listed Coyote on the line for the carrier's name. In addition, the Bill of Lading stated that the shipper, Eastco, was familiar with the Bill of Lading and accepted "all of the terms and conditions.including those on the back thereof, set forth in the classification or tariff which governs the transportation of this shipment."*fn1 Bill of Lading (attached as Ex. A to the First Amended Complaint [1-1]).

Eastco delivered the mold to Coyote for shipping. But Coyote did not ship the mold itself. Instead, it arranged for the mold to be shipped by Vitran Express, even though Coyote had never provided Eastco with a broker agreement that would have alerted Eastco to the fact that Vitran, not Coyote, would ship the mold.

The mold never arrived at its intended destination and has never been found. Upon learning that the mold was lost and that Vitran had been the actual shipper, Eastco made a claim to Vitran for the mold's value. Vitran responded that its liability was limited under a carrier tariff to $10 per pound, and paid Eastco $700. Eastco alleges that Coyote is liable for the remaining $18,300 of the $19,000 cost to replace the lost mold, and filed suit in state court under the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, see 49 U.S.C. § 14706, as well as for negligence under state law. Coyote removed the case to federal court and now moves to dismiss Eastco's claims in their entirety.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 12(b)(6) permits a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim, the complaint need only contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). On a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court accepts the allegations in the complaint as true, viewing all facts, as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000).

The Seventh Circuit has recently synthesized the relevant Supreme Court caselaw as follows:

So, what do we take away from Twombly, Erickson, and Iqbal? First, a plaintiff must provide notice to defendants of her claims. Second, courts must accept a plaintiff's factual allegations as true, but some factual allegations will be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice to defendants of the plaintiff's claim. Third, in considering the plaintiff's factual allegations, courts should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.

Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009).

Moreover, the Brooks court stated that the "plausibility requirement applies across the board, not just to antitrust cases." Id. However, the court should also take into consideration the complexity of the case when addressing whether a complaint alleges sufficient facts. See Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Village of Lemont, Ill., 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2008) (amount of factual allegations required to state a plausible claim "will depend on the type of case" and "[i]n a complex antitrust or RICO case a fuller set of factual allegations than found in the sample complaints in the civil rules' Appendix of Forms may be necessary"). To be facially plausible, a ...


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