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Muzzarelli v. United Parcel Service Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

June 27, 2017

JILL MUZZARELLI, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE INC., Defendant.

          ORDER & OPINION

          JOE BILLY McDADE United States Senior District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant United Parcel Service's (“UPS”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 34). Plaintiff has filed a Response (Doc. 36) and Defendant has filed a Reply. (Doc. 37). Therefore, the matter is fully briefed. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion is denied.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff's claim arises from a fall she endured when she tripped over a package delivered by UPS. Around 6pm on January 11, 2013, Plaintiff returned to her boyfriend's home, where she had resided for approximately twelve years. Plaintiff entered the house through a side door. When she left, she exited out the front door. The front door consisted of an inner main door and a screen door. After opening the screen door all the way, she exited and tripped over a large package that was sitting unconcealed on the porch in front of the door. The package had been delivered for Plaintiff's boyfriend earlier in the day by UPS.

         On January 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against UPS in the Circuit Court of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Illinois, which is in Bureau County, Princeton, Illinois. On April 6, 2015, Defendant was served with a summons and copy of the Complaint. On April 24, 2015, Defendant removed the case to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff is a resident of Princeton, Illinois.[2] Defendant is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Georgia. The amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. On November 11, 2016, Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgement. (Doc. 34). On December 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed her Response. (Doc. 36).[3] On December 22, 2016, Defendant filed its Reply to Plaintiff's Response. (Doc. 37). Therefore, the matter is fully briefed and the Court finds that oral arguments are unnecessary.[4]

         II. Legal Standards

         Summary judgment shall be granted where “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. SMS Demag Aktiengesellschaft v. Material Scis. Corp., 565 F.3d 365, 368 (7th Cir. 2009). All inferences drawn from the facts must be construed in favor of the non-movant. Moore v. Vital Prods., Inc., 641 F.3d 253, 256 (7th Cir. 2011). However, the Court is “not required to draw every conceivable inference from the record”; the Court draws only reasonable inferences. Smith v. Hope Sch., 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009) (quotations omitted).

         To survive summary judgment, the “nonmovant must show through specific evidence that a triable issue of fact remains on issues on which he bears the burden of proof at trial.” Warsco v. Preferred Tech. Grp., 258 F.3d 557, 563 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). If the evidence on record could not lead a reasonable jury to find for the non-movant, then no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See McClendon v. Ind. Sugars, 108 F.3d 789, 796 (7th Cir. 1997). At the summary judgment stage, the court may not resolve issues of fact; disputed material facts must be left for resolution at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986).

         III. Discussion

         Defendant brings forth three arguments in its motion for summary judgment. First, Defendant argues that the Carmack Amendment preempts Plaintiff's claim. Second, Defendant argues that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (“FAAAA”) preempts Plaintiff's claim. Lastly, Defendant argues that the open and obvious doctrine precludes recovery under state tort law.

         The Court finds that neither the Carmack Amendment nor the FAAAA preempts Plaintiff's claim. Lastly, the Court finds that the open and obvious doctrine is inapplicable because Plaintiff's Complaint does not plead a premise liability claim. Therefore, Defendant's motion for summary judgement is denied.

         A. The Carmack Amendment Does Not Apply

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claim is preempted by the Carmack Amendment. However, Plaintiff's claim is not preempted because it arises out of a separate and distinct ground from the loss of, or the damage to, the goods that were shipped.

         The Carmack Amendment was enacted in 1906 “to establish uniform federal guidelines designed in part to remove the uncertainty surrounding a carrier's liability when damage occurs to a shipper's interstate shipment.” Glass v. Crimmins Transfer Co., 299 F.Supp.2d 878, 884 (C.D. Ill. 2004) (quotations omitted). The pertinent portion of the Carmack Amendment reads:

“A carrier providing transportation or service . . . shall issue a receipt or bill of lading for property it receives for transportation under this part. That carrier and any other carrier that delivers the property and is providing transportation or service . . . are liable to the person entitled to recover under the receipt or bill of lading. The liability imposed under this paragraph is for the actual loss or injury to the property caused by (A) the receiving carrier, (B) the delivering carrier, or (C) another carrier over whose line or route the property is transported in the United States. Failure to issue a receipt or bill of lading does not affect the liability of a carrier.”

49 U.S.C. § 14706(a)(1) (2012).[5] The Carmack Amendment creates a comprehensive remedial scheme for a shipper to recover the loss of cargo that is lost or damaged by a carrier; however, that loss is limited to actual losses or less, if the shipper and carrier negotiated a lower cap on potential losses for lower shipping rates. Glass, 299 F.Supp.2d at 884. Preemption is evidenced where Congress has legislated so comprehensively that it has left no room for supplementary state legislation. Since the enactment of the Carmack Amendment, the United States Supreme Court and the United States Courts of Appeals have addressed whether Congress sought to preempt state and common law through the Carmack Amendment and the extent of such preemption.

         In 1913, the United States Supreme Court held that the Carmack Amendment preempted state and common law remedies. Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.S. 491, 505-06 (1913). The Court found that “almost every detail of the subject is covered as completely that there can be no rational doubt that Congress intended to take possession of the subject and supersede all state regulation with reference to it.” Id. at 504. Adams Express and its progeny establish that “state statutes and common law are preempted by the Carmack Amendment if they ‘in any way enlarge the responsibility of the carrier' for losses or if they ‘at all affect the ground of recovery or the measure of recovery.'” Glass, 299 F.Supp.2d at 885 (citing Charleston & W. C. Ry. Co. v. Varnville Furniture Co., 237 U.S. 597, 604 (1915)).

         However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has found that the Carmack Amendment does not shelter a carrier from all liability. In Gordon v. United Van Lines, the Seventh Circuit found an exception to preemption for “state law claims that allege liability on a ground that is separate and distinct from the loss of, or the damage to, the goods that were shipped in interstate commerce.” 130 F.3d 282, 289 (7th Cir. 1997) (emphasis added). In Gordon, instead of moving an eighty-year-old grandmother's possessions, the moving company discarded them and then lied to the grandmother about the status of her possessions. Id. at 283-285. The moving company sought preemption for the grandmother's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against them. Id. at 289. The Seventh Circuit allowed the intentional infliction of emotional distress because the claim relied on a separate and distinct ground “from the loss of, or the damage to, the goods that were shipped.” Id. at 289. Therefore, while many state and common law claims are preempted by the Carmack Amendment, it is clear that it does not preempt all claims simply because they arise during the shipment of goods; rather the Court must examine the facts and claims at hand to determine whether the claims arise from a separate and distinct ground from the loss of or damage to the shipped goods.

         This Court finds that under Gordon, Plaintiff's claim is not preempted by the Carmack Amendment because it arises from a “separate and distinct [ground] from the loss of, or the damage to, the goods that were shipped.” Id. Plaintiff does not allege damage to the goods that were shipped; in fact, Plaintiff does not allege that the package was damaged at all. Rather Plaintiff alleges that Defendant was negligent in the placement of the package on the porch which caused personal injuries to the Plaintiff. Therefore, Plaintiff's claim arises from a separate and distinct ground from the loss of, or damage to, the goods that were shipped.

         Defendant argues that the Court is bound to follow Glass, which is a 2004 case from the Central District of Illinois. 299 F.Supp.2d at 878. In Glass, a moving company was contracted to move and store a family's personal property. Id. at 883. During the storage of the property it was damaged by mildew. Id. The mildew-damaged property caused health injuries to the family. Id. The family brought a variety of claims against the movers, including negligence which resulted in the injury of two of the family members. Id. Magistrate Judge Gorman found that the claims were preempted by the Carmack Amendment because the “physical injuries arose directly from the carrier's mis-handling of the property.” Id. at 887.

         Defendant argues that this case is similar; therefore, Plaintiff's claim should be similarly preempted. However, the Court finds Glass to be distinguishable and therefore less persuasive. In Glass, damage from the storage of the family's property caused the mildew and the mildew caused the family's injury. Therefore, the family's personal injury claims were directly connected to the damage of their property. However, Plaintiff's injury arose because of the alleged negligent placement of the box, not because goods were damaged during shipment.

         The Court finds Plaintiff's claim is more analogous to that in McGinn v. JB Hunt Transp., Inc., No. 10-CV-610-JPS, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5362, at * 4-11 (E.D. Wis. Jan. 17, 2012). In McGinn, gas grills were shipped to a store in a trailer. Id. at *4. After opening the trailer, employees found a hole in the trailer's roof and wet boxes. Id. While unloading the trailer, some of the boxes fell on an employee, striking him in the neck. Id. at *5. The defendant argued that the employee's claims of common law negligence were preempted by the Carmack Amendment. Id. at *1.

         The McGinn Court rejected Defendant's preemption ...


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