Claims Preempted by Carmack Amendment

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Transportation

It is clear that under federal and state law the Carmack Amendment is the exclusive remedy for cases involving interstate shipping. But oftentimes in a lawsuit about transported goods it seems like state law claims would apply, and not the Carmack Amendment. In fact, this is one of the most hotly contested areas of litigation in Carmack Amendment claims.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided such a case 2007. In the case, Hall v. North American Van Lines, Inc., 476 F 3d. 683 9th Cir. 2007), the court published a laundry list of claims that fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Carmack Amendment. Of course, the problem with lists of that kind are the number and types of exceptions that could fit in or outside the list.

Facts of the Case

This case originated out of a contract to ship household goods from California to Montana. The shipper in the case contracted with the carrier to move her household goods for a little over $6,000. The carrier in the case disputes that figure, but that is what the court reported. After the shipper got to her destination she waited for several weeks for her goods to arrive as well.

Soon after waiting a long period of time, the shipper contacted the carrier and asked why her goods had not arrived. The carrier demanded payment of $9,000 before they would ship her goods, and she paid the money. Later, it is reported, the carrier demanded an additional $18,000 and that is when the shipper brought suit.

This case was different because the shipper did not allege loss or damage of goods in transit. She argued that she was damaged because her goods were held for ransom by the company, that they breached her contract, and that all her claims arose under state law. But the carrier argued the Carmack Amendment was the sole avenue of remedy since it was a contract for the shipment of goods interstate.

Court’s Ruling

In their opinion, the court recognized that this was a novel question for them. The shipper was not arguing loss or damage of goods, but delayed fulfillment, and ultimately dishonest business practices. But the court sided with the carrier and held that in such cases the Carmack Amendment is the exclusive avenue of remedy for the shipper.

It its holding the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals outlined the claims that are exclusive to the Carmack Amendment in interstate shipping contracts. The court said that the Carmack Amendment is the exclusive cause of action in claims involving:

  • delay;
  • loss;
  • failure to deliver; or,
  • damage to property.

Of course making such a list simply invites sophisticated legal maneuvers and arguments to explain why one case or another does not fit in the list. But it also gives some business clarity as the plan operations.

Know how and when different state and federal laws apply to your company’s operations is key to your success. At Anderson and Yamada, P.C., our team of trucking law professionals will help guide your company through all the legal challenges it may face. Contact us so we can become part of your company’s success.