When Carmack and FAAAA Do Not Preempt State Law

Kevin Anderson Cargo Liability, Transportation

An interesting case recently decided in a federal court in Illinois should be of note to any company involved in the trucking and transportation industry. That case, Muzzarelli v. United Parcel Service, Inc., presents two compelling issues related to trucking and transportation law. The first is related to the Carmack Amendment and when that federal statute does not preempt state law. And the second is a similar issue, although it regards the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act.

The facts of this case involve a well known package delivery company and a property owner who sued them for injuries they suffered. The case began when one of that company’s employee’s left a package on the front porch of a house (a fairly common occurrence for the company and people). The conflict began when a woman living at the house tripped over the package and was injured as a result. A lawsuit resulted from it all.

Carrier’s Legal Arguments

To combat the lawsuit, the carrier in this case employed two important arguments and one common strategy. The strategy was to remove the case to federal court based on the fact that the injured woman is a resident of Illinois, and the company is headquartered in Delaware. Their legal arguments were fairly common as well. They argued that the case was preempted by the Carmack Amendment and FAAAA.

Regarding the Carmack Amendment, the carrier argued that federal establishes that any claim resulting from loss or damage to goods shipped interstate preempts applicable state law claims. But the judge in this case decided that this case was separate from a typical Carmack Amendment Case because it was not about lost or damaged cargo, but about the damage done to a woman who alleged negligence by the company.

The second argument and decision was much like the first. Under the FAAAA, a state is not allowed to enact or enforce any law that relates to price, route, or service of a motor carrier. The carrier in this case argued that if the woman was allowed to proceed with her suit, it would substantially affect the company’s price, route, our service, and therefore should not be allowed. But the court did not accept this argument either, and allowed the case to go forward.

Lessons Learned

This case offers several lessons for those involved in the trucking industry. First, it is important to remember and know that federal law does preempt a number of state laws that could otherwise affect the legal claims and liability any trucking company faces on a daily basis. Every interaction that you or your employee has with the public, customers, brokers, and others open up the opportunity for a legal claim of one kind of another, whether it is for negligence, lost or damaged goods, or another kind of claim.

A key to every trucking company’s success is to have the right legal counsel on their side. At Anderson and Yamada we have decades of experience helping trucking companies navigate the challenges they face on a daily basis, and we want to help your company. Contact us today.