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Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. v. Plano Molding Co.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 11, 2013

KAWASAKI KISEN KAISHA, LTD., and

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HARRY D. LEINENWEBER, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant Plano Molding Co.'s ("Plano") Motion for Reconsideration. [ECF No. 170.] For the reasons stated herein, that Motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

This case stems from a Union Pacific Railroad Co. ("Union Pacific") train derailment that caused extensive damage to both the railroad and the train's cargo. Plaintiffs Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd., "K" Line America, Inc. (collectively, "K-Line") and Union Pacific blame Plano for the accident. Plaintiffs claim that Plano's steel injection molds were packed improperly, broke through their container and fell onto the track. They seek to hold Plano liable for damages arising from the derailment. The specific facts of this case have been recited extensively in previous decisions, so the Court will not repeat them here. See, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, LTD v. Plano Molding Co., No. 07 C 5675, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82335 (N.D. Ill. July 27, 2011) (" Kawasaki I "); Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, LTD v. Plano Molding Co., 696 F.3d 647 (7th Cir. 2012) (" Kawasaki II "); Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, LTD v. Plano Molding Co., No. 07 C 5675, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101118 (N.D. Ill. July 19, 2013) (" Kawasaki III ").

On July 27, 2011, this Court granted Plano's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' claims. See, Kawasaki I, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82335. It did so despite noting some discrepancies regarding whether Plano was a consignee to a bill of lading prepared by World Commerce Services, LLC ("World"), which was the basis for some of Plaintiffs' claims. Id. at *15-18. World, a non-vessel operating common carrier, arranged the shipment of the steel molds from China to Illinois. Plaintiffs appealed, and while the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision with respect to some of Plaintiffs' claims, it found unresolved questions of fact relevant to the Plaintiffs' contract claims based on the World Bill of Lading. The Seventh Circuit stated that, in analyzing Plaintiffs' contention that Plano is bound by the terms of the World Bill of Lading as a contracting party, "we must consider Plano's role in obtaining World as the freight forwarder for the molds' transportation. Kawasaki II, 696 F.3d at 656. The Seventh Circuit found this question important, because "if Plano engaged World to handle the shipment on its own behalf, it could be found liable to K-Line and Union Pacific by the plain terms of the World bill of lading." Id. The Seventh Circuit found the evidence surrounding the Plano/World interaction "murky at best, " and concluded that conflicts in the record created a material question of fact that required remand. Id. As such, the Seventh Circuit concluded:

On this record, we are unable to ascertain whether CMT or Plano arranged the molds' shipment with World. Without this determination, we cannot conclude whether or not Plano engaged World in a manner that would impose liability as a contracting party, and subject Plano to liability under the World bill of lading. As to this narrow issue, we reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment and remand for further consideration.

Id. at 657-58.

Following the Seventh Circuit's ruling, the parties stipulated to bifurcating all issues of causation and damages while the Court first made an initial determination of the sole issue remanded by the Seventh Circuit: "whether or not Plano engaged World in a manner that would impose liability as a contracting party and subject Plano to liability under the World bill of lading." See, Pre-Trial Order at 1, ECF No. 153.

On June 24, 2013, this Court conducted a one-day bench trial focusing on the narrow issue raised by the Seventh Circuit with respect to whether Plano's interactions with World were such that Plano was subject to World's Bill of Lading. Plaintiffs and Plano presented both live and deposition testimony on the subject. After the trial concluded, the Court directed the parties to submit post-closing briefs.

On July 19, 2013, this Court issued a decision finding that Plano's role in obtaining World as the freight forwarder was sufficient to bind Plano to the World Bill of Lading. Kawasaki III, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101118 at *19. The Court based this determination on several findings of fact. The Court found that Plano selected World as its forwarder, and that Plano gave World various instructions regarding shipment. Id. at *18. The Court also found that the molds were shipped FOB Shanghai, and that Plano was listed as the Consignee of the World Bill of Lading. Id. at *19. Based on these findings, the Court held that "Plano is bound to the World Bill of Lading and may be held liable to Plaintiffs...." Id. at *19, *20. Pursuant to the stipulation entered between the parties, the Court also set the matter for trial on the issues of causation and damages. Id. at *20.

Plano now moves, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), for this Court to reconsider its July 19, 2013 Opinion, claiming that the Court misapprehended certain facts and that it reached a decision outside of the issues presented to the Court.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) governs non-final orders and permits revision at any time prior to the entry of judgment. Galvan v. Norberg, 678 F.3d 581, 587 n.3 (7th Cir. 2012). Rule 54(b) provides that any order or other decision that adjudicates fewer than all the claims of fewer than all the parties may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims, unless a partial judgment is entered as to such an order. See, ...


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