United States District Court, S.D. Florida
MELISSA H. MEYER, et al., Plaintiffs,
SUITABLE MOVERS, LLC, et al. Defendants.
ALTMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss (the “Motion”) [ECF No. 66],
filed on May 20, 2019. The Plaintiffs filed a Response in
Opposition (the “Response”) [ECF No. 71] on May
25, 2019. And the matter ripened on June 6, 2019, when the
Defendants filed their Reply (the “Reply”) [ECF
Plaintiff, Melissa H. Meyer, is the mother of Emma Meyer and
the owner of The Eyeglass Lady, LLC. In 2018, Meyer decided
to move her family from Florida to the State of Washington.
To facilitate this cross-country move, Meyer contacted the
Defendant, Suitable Movers, LLC (“Suitable
Movers”), and spoke directly with the owner, Defendant
Jaimie Perez. After some negotiation, Meyer and Perez agreed
that Suitable Movers would move, not only Meyer's
personal belongings, but also the Eyeglass Lady's
inventory, from Florida to Washington.
January 5, 2019, Suitable Movers loaded both Meyer's
household goods and Eyeglass Lady's entire business
inventory into a moving van and left for the Suitable Movers
warehouse in Sunrise, Florida. Suitable Movers apparently did
not offer Meyer insurance coverage for her goods. At the
warehouse, the Plaintiffs' goods were unloaded from the
moving van and packed onto a truck owned and operated by the
Defendant, Carlyle Van Lines, Inc. (“Carlyle”).
That truck was driven by the Defendant, Raymond Wells. At
some point after the goods arrived at the warehouse, Perez
called Meyer and told her that, because her shipment included
goods she had not initially disclosed, her move would cost
more than they had initially agreed. After some back and
forth, Perez and Meyer agreed on a higher price.
driving the truck, departed Sunrise and headed to
Jacksonville, where he stopped to load the belongings of
several other individuals-Michael Barnosky, Jenna Barnosky,
Joshua Dietrich, and Matthew Woodford-who were likewise
moving their things to the Pacific Northwest. Wells then
proceeded to Dothan, Alabama, where he picked up the
household goods of Seneca Pena-Collazo. Now fully loaded,
Wells and his truck finally departed for Washington.
January 11, 2019, as Wells was driving through Arkansas, a
fire unexpectedly started along the right rear wheel of the
trailer. Although Wells did not, at first, notice the fire,
he was soon alerted to it by a passing motorist who flagged
him down. Unfortunately, by the time firefighters arrived,
all of the cargo was destroyed. The fire department concluded
that the fire was caused by the “failure of equipment
or heat source.”
the police arrived and questioned Wells, who told them that
he was carrying the cargo of four military families. Because
Wells did not inform the police about the Plaintiffs'
goods, the police initially contacted only the military
families about the fire. On January 12, 2019, however, after
Meyer called Perez to ask about her goods, Perez told her
something to the effect of “I am sorry to tell you this
but there was a brake malfunction which caused a fire and
everything is gone.” Ultimately, Perez returned
Meyer's entire deposit.
later, Meyer reached out to Alma Salvage, the scrap yard
where the rubble was being held, to arrange for her to
retrieve her belongings. According to the SAC, Alma Salvage
initially had no problem with Meyer searching through the
wreckage-but George Crumbly, an adjuster for Carlyle, did.
For reasons that are left unexplained, Crumbly told Alma
Salvage that Meyer should be prohibited from gathering her
belongings from the wreckage. And, the SAC avers, because
Alma Salvage depends on Missouri-based Carlyle for work, its
owner-who did not wish to “make waves”-pliantly
forbade Meyer from accessing her belongings.
Carmack Amendment, enacted in 1906, established a uniform,
nationwide framework that governs the liability of
inter-state carriers for property loss. See New York,
N.H. & H. R. Co. v. Nothnagle, 346 U.S. 128, 131
(1953); see also 49 U.S.C. § 14706 et.
seq. Its reach is comprehensive: “Almost every
detail of the subject is covered so completely that there can
be no rational doubt but that Congress intended to take
possession of the subject, and supersede all state regulation
with reference to it.” Adams Express Co. v.
Croninger, 226 U.S. 491, 506 (1913).
Carmack Amendment thus preempts all state-law claims arising
from the inter-state transportation and delivery of goods.
See Id. at 505-06; see also Southeastern Express
Co. v. Pastime Amusement Co., 299 U.S. 28, 29 (1936)
(negligence claims preempted); New York, Philadelphia
& Norfold R.R. Co. v. Peninsula Produce Exch. of
Md., 240 U.S. 34, 38 (1916) (Carmack Amendment
preemption is “comprehensive enough to embrace all
damages resulting from any failure to discharge a
carrier's duty with respect to any part of the
transportation to the agreed destination”); Smith
v. United Parcel Serv., 296 F.3d 1244, 1247-48 (11th
Cir. 2002) (Carmack Amendment preempts state-law fraud,
negligence, wantonness, and outrage claims). Indeed, the
Eleventh Circuit has said that only claims “based on
conduct separate and distinct from the delivery, loss of, or
damage to goods escape preemption.” Smith, 296
F.3d at 1249.
their joint Motion to Dismiss, the Defendants argue that the
Carmack Amendment preempts all of the Plaintiffs'
state-law claims. See generally Mot. The Plaintiffs
parry with five arguments in response. First, they
claim that, because the Defendants failed to provide Meyer
with a bill of lading, the Defendants have failed to satisfy
the “prerequisites” for Carmack Amendment
preemption. See Response at 6-9. Second,
they say that their claims are not preempted because those
claims are “separate and distinct from the Cargo
Loss.” See Id. at 10- 12. Third, they
argue that their claims against Suitable Movers cannot be
preempted because Suitable Movers is an intra-state
shipper See Id. at 12-14. Fourth, they
contend that their claims against Perez cannot be preempted
because Perez was merely a “broker, ” and not a