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Miami Warehouse Logistics, Inc. v. Seaboard Marine Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

January 16, 2018




         This is a breach of contract and negligence action arising from a marine shipping agreement gone sour. Plaintiff Miami Warehouse Logistics, Inc. (“MWL”), a warehousing, distribution, and logistics company, seeks compensatory damages from Defendant Seaboard Marine Ltd. (“Seaboard”), an ocean transport company, for a spoiled shipment of goods. I have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1333 and 1441.

         Pending is Seaboard's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 14). I have reviewed the Motion, the parties' supporting and opposing briefs, the record, and the relevant legal authorities. For the reasons that follow, I grant the Motion.


         In October 2015, MWL was a freight forwarder for PepsiCo, Inc. (“PepsiCo”), an international beverage company. (ECF No. 15-1 at 6:3-6). During that time, MWL hired Seaboard to ship thirty-five drums of PepsiCo's cranberry concentrate from the United States to the Dominican Republic. (ECF Nos. 1-2 ¶ 6). The initial bill of lading mistakenly specified a shipping temperature of sixty-four degrees. (Id. ¶ 7). MWL later changed the bill of lading to specify the correct shipping temperature, zero degrees. (Id. Ex. A). Seaboard acknowledged the change and, on October 19, 2015, loaded the concentrate into a shipping container bound for the Dominican Republic. (Id. ¶ 7-8). It did not, however, cool the container to the correct shipping temperature at any point during the voyage. (Id. ¶ 9).

         The concentrate arrived at the Dominican Republic on October 28, 2015. (Id. ¶ 10). When MWL and PepsiCo learned that Seaboard had not shipped the concentrate at the correct temperature, they contacted Ocean Spray, the manufacturer, to determine if the concentrate was still suitable for consumption. (Id.). Ocean Spray responded that it was not. (Id. ¶ 11). MWL used trade credits to reimburse PepsiCo for the spoiled concentrate, and filed a claim with Seaboard seeking its own reimbursement. (Id. ¶ 12). When Seaboard denied that claim, MWL brought this action in state court, alleging state-law claims for breach of contract and negligence, and seeking unspecified damages. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 16-24). Seaboard timely removed. (ECF No. 1).


         Summary judgment “shall be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)) (internal quotations omitted); Damon v. Fleming Supermarkets of Florida, Inc., 196 F.3d 1354, 1358 (11th Cir. 1999). Thus, the entry of summary judgment is appropriate “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         “The moving party bears the initial burden to show the district court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at trial.” Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). “Only when that burden has been met does the burden shift to the non-moving party to demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment.” Id.

         Rule 56 “requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Thus, the nonmoving party “may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         “A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Damon, 196 F.3d at 1358. “A mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party.” Abbes v. Embraer Servs., Inc., 195 F. App'x 898, 899-900 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990)). When deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, “the evidence, and all inferences drawn from the facts, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Bush v. Houston County Commission, 414 F. App'x 264, 266 (11th Cir. 2011).


         Seaboard offers several arguments in support of its Motion: (1) the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30701, et seq. (“COGSA”) preempts MWL's claims; (2) MWL's claims are time-barred under COGSA; (3) Seaboard's liability is limited to $17, 500.00 under COGSA; (4) the Economic Loss Rule bars MWL's negligence claim; (4) MWL cannot collect damages for its voluntary reimbursement of PepsiCo; and (5) the Complaint does not state a viable claim for attorney's fees. I focus on the first two arguments, as they are dispositive.

         COGSA applies to all foreign trade contracts for the carriage of goods by sea to or from United States ports. 46 U.S.C. § 30712. The Act governs, inter alia, a carrier's duties with respect to cargo from loading until discharge. See Crowley Am. Transp., Inc. v. Richard Sewing Mach. Co., 172 F.3d 781, 785 & n.6 (11th Cir. 1999). The parties may, however, agree to apply COGSA to other periods of transit by so indicating in the bill ...

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