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Final Summary Judgment in Carmack Amendment Case.

April 27, 2015

Nicole Ellis, of the Miami office, obtained Final Summary Judgment for a global transportation and freight shipping company based upon a rather unique application of the “pre-emption doctrine” and the two year statute of limitations under the Carmack Amendment of the Interstate Commerce Act (49 U.S.C. §14706). Nicole began defending the motor carrier in late 2009 when the Plaintiff, a motorcycle distributer and wholesaler, filed suit asserting state law claims for negligence and seeking third-party beneficiary status regarding motorcycles damaged during multiple interstate shipments. Nicole realized the Carmack Amendment provided the exclusive remedy for the Plaintiff and thus the Plaintiff was pursuing the wrong causes of action. However, in response to the complaint Nicole initially filed a Motion to Dismiss that deftly challenged the state law claims while not bringing the Carmack Amendment and its two year statute of limitations to opposing counsel’s attention. The Plaintiff failed to file an amended complaint after the Motion to Dismiss, and the “initial” case was eventually dismissed for lack of prosecution.

Nearly two years later the Plaintiff again filed suit based upon the same facts, this time (correctly) asserting liability under the Carmack Amendment. As Nicole argued, “it was too little too late.” After discovery closed, Nicole moved for final summary judgment on the entire case, arguing Carmack applied to any claims arising from the shipment damaged in interstate commerce. Specifically, and even though the initial case was timely filled, the two year statute of limitations under Carmack barred the re-filed claims given the time expiration from the freight shipping company’s declination of the Plaintiff’s cargo loss claim. The Court agreed and further rejected the Plaintiff’s attempts to argue the re-filed claim “related back to the original action that was timely filed,” albeit not under Carmack. Nicole also utilized case law to successfully argue that since the statute of limitation is the standard in the industry, a copy of the company’s tariff classification specifically mentioning the statute of limitation did not have to be introduced into evidence in order to be relied upon by the Court in entering summary judgment.

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