Preempting a Personal Injury Claim With the Carmack Amendment

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Judgments, Transportation

A case involving a charity, broken legos, and severe personal injuries recently made its way to federal court, and tested the limits of preemption and the Carmack Amendment. The case is an example of just how important, and imposing, the Carmack Amendment is. It is also an example of how different circuit courts are split on the issue of personal injuries and the Carmack Amendment.

The case revealing these different lessons was decided in Pennsylvania in November. That case, Krauss v. Iris, involved an autism charity and their wish to have a load of Lego toys delivered across the country. To do so, they bought the goods from a company in Wisconsin and arranged through them to deliver the goods.

It was at this point that the delivery went south, and the allegations underlying the lawsuit arose. The shipper in this case sent very strict instructions on how the goods were to be handled, and even had volunteers at the destination to help unload the goods. According to the complaint, the loading company did not properly secure the load while unloading, and a pallet fell on the volunteer, crushing his bones.

Lawsuit Over Losses and Injuries

As anybody would, the person crushed by the load and the charity who lost their goods filed a lawsuit over what happened. They filed a complaint under the provisions of the Carmack Amendment for the damaged goods, and they sued under state laws for the personal injury. But that claim did not stand.

Scope of Carmack Amendment

The court was clear in its opinion that preempting personal injury claims with the Carmack Amendment goes to the limits of its preemption power. It also discussed the split between federal circuit courts over how to deal with a personal injury claim, preemption, and the Carmack Amendment.

Under the current state of the law, there have been four circuits that have dealt with this issue. Two of the circuits have focused on harm, and two on conduct, and three on harm that results from alleged events. The 9th Circuit, affecting Washington, Oregon, and California, have held that when a harm is connected with the loss or damage of goods, that claim is preempted by the Carmack Amendment.

That is the same holding that the district court case adopted in this case. The judge ruled that because the personal injury claim was connected to the claim for lost goods, it fell within the preemption power of the Carmack Amendment, and had to be struck. The judge did, however, give the plaintiff the opportunity to amend their complaint to include the injuries under the provisions of the Carmack Amendment. Courts often do this to ensure that justice is served, and parties do not lose on a technicality.

Your Carmack Amendment Law Firm

At Anderson and Yamada, we have decades of experience representing transportation companies of all sizes in dealing with the Carmack Amendment and other transportation laws. We represent companies in Oregon, Washington and the surrounding areas, and look forward to helping your company. Contact us today.