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The Mason and Dixon Lines, Incorporated v. Walters M Fabrication, Inc..

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 16, 2014

THE MASON AND DIXON LINES, INCORPORATED, Plaintiff,
v.
WALTERS M FABRICATION, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on The Mason and Dixon Lines, Incorporated's ("MADL") motions to dismiss (Docs. 17 & 27). Defendant Walters M Fabrication, Inc. ("Walters") filed responses (Docs. 19 & 31) to which MADL replied (Docs. 20 & 33). For the following reasons, the Court denies as moot MADL's first motion to dismiss (Doc. 17) and grants MADL's second motion to dismiss (Doc. 27).

1. Background

As an initial matter, the Court notes that MADL's motion to dismiss (Doc. 17) dated January 16, 2014 was directed at Walters' counterclaims alleged along with Walters' answer to MADL's original complaint. Since that time, MADL filed an amended complaint, and Walters filed an answer to the amended complaint along with its counterclaims. As such, the Court denies as moot MADL's motion to dismiss (Doc. 17) dated January 16, 2014. The Court will turn to address MADL's second motion to dismiss (Doc. 27) dated April 2, 2014.

This matter arises out of a contract entered into between Walters and MADL for the transportation of an over-dimensional shipment of goods. Walters is a m fabrication company located in Granite City, Illinois, that sought to transport its product, pipe spools, to a customer located in Mont Belvieu, Texas. As such, Walters contracted with MADL to deliver the over-dimensional load.[1] MADL secured a permit for an over-dimensional shipment from the Illinois Department of Transportation ("IDOT").[2] The permit provided for the shipment of a load the height of 15 feet, 9 inches and provided a route the driver was required to follow when delivering the load. On December 29, 2012, while following IDOT's mandatory route, the driver drove the load into the underside of the Herrin Road Bridge on Interstate Highway 57 causing damage to the load.

On June 30, 2013, Walters filed a "Standard Form for Presentation of Loss and Damage Claims" for $391, 922.11 (Doc. 11-6). Walters' claim was denied in a letter from Universal Am-Can, Ltd.[3] dated September 19, 2013 (Doc. 11-7). Thereafter, Walters demanded immediate payment of the claim plus delay claims. Walters further claimed an offset in the amount of $138, 838.50 against transportation invoices from a separate corporation affiliate of MADL that was not a party to the contract. MADL filed the instant action asking the Court to declare as follows: (1) the Tariffs and Bill of Lading apply to the shipment at issue; (2) MADL's compliance with IDOT's permit constitutes a force majeure relieving MADL of liability; (3) alternatively, if the Court finds no force majeure, Walters' recovery is limited to $100, 000; and (4) Walters' retention of the $128, 838.50 due to another corporate entity was not an allowable set-off. Walters' filed a counterclaim alleging both a negligence claim and a claim arising under the Federal Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706.

MADL filed its motion to dismiss (Doc. 27) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) arguing that Walters' negligence claim must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Specifically, MADL argues that the Federal Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706(a), preempts any state law claim arising from damage to cargo during the interstate transportation of goods by motor carrier. In its response, Walters contends that (1) the issue of whether MADL is a motor carrier or a broker should not be determined on a motion to dismiss; (2) the Carmack Amendment does not preempt Walters' claims which extend beyond the damage to property; and

(3) the Carmack Amendment does not preempt any state law claims against any defendant who is not a motor carrier.

In its reply, MADL contends that Walters admitted MADL was a motor carrier in Walters' counterclaim allegations. Specifically, MADL points to the following portions of Walters' counterclaim:

5. On November 8, 2012, Walters contracted [MADL] to haul cargo from its facility to its customer's facility in Baytown, Texas. []
6. [MADL] issued a bill of lading to Walters [], obtained permits from the State of Illinois and hired a pilot car to guide the load.
7. While hauling the cargo on I-64 in Williamson County, Illinois, [MADL] acting through its agents or employees, drove the load into the underside of the Herrin Road bridge at 57 mph.

(Doc. 26, p. 3). The Court will consider the parties' ...


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