United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
W. Grimm United States District Judge.
2014, Plaintiff Celestin Monga relocated to Vienna, Austria
for a temporary post with the United Nations Industrial
Development Organization (UNIDO). Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 2.
After Monga left the country, he retained the services of
Defendant A.B.S. Moving & Storage, Inc.
(“A.B.S.”) to move his belongings from his home
in Gaithersburg, Maryland to Baltimore, where an
international shipping company would pick the items up for
shipment and delivery to Monga in Austria. Id.
¶ 2. Monga alleges that A.B.S. took advantage of his
absence by demanding additional money before releasing his
belongings to an international shipping company and also
damaged and/or lost some of the items. Id. ¶ 3.
Monga filed suit in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County,
Maryland, alleging damages based on state-law claims.
Id. ¶¶ 41-96. Defendants removed the case
to this Court. Notice of Removal ¶ 2, ECF No. 1. Monga
then filed a Motion to Remand, Pl.'s Mot., ECF No. 19,
and the Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, Defs.'
Opp'n & Mot., ECF No. 20. The Motion to Remand is
fully briefed, Pl.'s Mot.; Defs.' Opp'n &
Mot.; Pl.'s Reply, ECF No. 21, but the Motion to Dismiss
is only partially briefed, see Pl.'s Reply 1
(declining to file an Opposition to the Motion); Defs.'
Sur-Reply 3-4, ECF No. 23-2 (urging Court to grant the Motion
as unopposed). But for reasons explained below the line, I
will rule on both Motions. No hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6
(D. Md.). Because some of Monga's claims are completely
preempted by federal law, I will deny his Motion to Remand.
But because I must reframe completely preempted state-law
claims as a claims brought under their federal analogue and
because some aspects of Monga's claims are not preempted,
I will also deny Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
November 2014, Monga accepted a position with UNIDO and began
organizing his relocation to Austria. Compl. ¶ 14. The
following month, Monga contacted A.B.S. to “obtain an
estimate of the costs to pack and move the contents of his
household . . . to an A.B.S. storage facility, to then be
picked up by another carrier for shipment to Vienna,
Austria.” Id. ¶ 15. Defendant Avi Sabban,
an A.B.S. employee, provided a written estimate of $1, 720.00
plus a $200 monthly storage fee. Id. ¶¶
16, 18. Monga intended to store the items for no more than
thirty days while he arranged international shipment of the
items to Austria. Id. ¶ 19. A.B.S. began
packing and moving the items on December 15, 2014 and
completed the job the next day. Id. ¶ 20.
Shortly after the move, Monga called Sabban, attempting to
secure an inventory of the items packed and loaded, and
Sabban informed him that the final cost of the move had
exceeded the estimate by $264.53. See Id. ¶ 21.
Monga paid the requested amount. Id. ¶ 25. On
January 15, 2015, A.B.S. requested an additional $2, 887.50,
which another A.B.S. employee, Defendant Natalie Smith, later
explained included a previously undisclosed “pickup fee
of $1987.50 plus $900.00 for storage” that the company
would require Monga to pay before she would “discuss .
. . whom you would like to have your household items released
to.” Id. ¶¶ 26, 29 (quoting Email
from Natalie Smith, to Celestin Monga (Jan. 22, 2015, 7:55
P.M.), Compl. Ex. 4, ECF No. 2-4). Around the same time,
Monga hired Allied International (“Allied”) to
retrieve the household goods from A.B.S. and ship them to
Austria. Id. ¶ 33. An Allied representative
contacted A.B.S., which indicated that it would not release
Monga's belongings for international shipment until it
received the additional $2, 877.50 and a notarized letter
authorizing the release. Id. ¶¶ 33-34.
When Allied sought confirmation of these details on
Monga's behalf, A.B.S. requested an additional $140.00
loading fee. Id. ¶ 36. Monga paid the
additional $2, 887.50 on February 12, 2015. Id.
¶ 32. After additional difficulties securing release of
the items, Allied successfully obtained Monga's
belongings on March 3, 2015 and documented lost and damaged
items. Id. ¶¶ 39-40.
Motion to Remand
may move to remand a case removed to federal court based on a
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. §
1447(c). Federal courts possess federal-question jurisdiction
over “civil actions arising under the Constitution,
laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331. They also possess original jurisdiction over
“any civil action or proceeding arising under any Act
of Congress regulating commerce.” 28 U.S.C. §
1337(a). Ordinarily, a case only “aris[es] under”
federal law if the federal issue appears on the face of a
well-pleaded complaint. Smith v. Kansas City Title &
Trust Co., 255 U.S. 180, 199 (1921); Louisville
& Nashville R.R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152
(1908). Accordingly, a defense that raises a
federal issue cannot serve as the basis for federal
jurisdiction. Mottley, 211 U.S. at 153. But a
complaint that raises only state-law claims, presents a
federal question where “a federal statute wholly
displaces the state-law cause of action through complete
preemption.” Beneficial Nat. Bank v. Anderson,
539 U.S. 1, 8 (2003).
assert that the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706,
completely preempts Monga's claims. Defs.' Opp'n
& Mot. 10-12. The Carmack Amendment provides a federal
cause of action to recover damages from carriers for
“actual loss or injury to property” during
interstate transportation. See 49 U.S.C.
14706(a)(1). Among other types of transportation, the Carmack
Amendment applies to
transportation by motor carrier and the procurement of that
transportation to the extent that . . . property . . . [is]
transported by motor carrier between a place in- (A) a State
and a place in another State; (B) a State and another place
in the same State through another State; (C) the United
States and a place in a territory or possession of the United
States to the extent the transportation is in the United
States; (D) the United States and another place in the United
States through a foreign country to the extent the
transportation is in the United States; or (E) the United
States and a place in a foreign country to the extent the
transportation is in the United States[.]”
Id. § 13501(1).
are correct that the statute completely preempts state-law
claims against carriers for goods lost during interstate
transportation. Adams Express Co. v. Croninger, 226
U.S. 491, 505-06 (1913) (“Almost every detail of the
subject [of carrier liability for property damage or loss
during interstate transportation] is covered so completely
[by the Carmack Amendment] 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.”); Ward v. Allied Van Lines, Inc., 231
F.3d 135 (4th Cir. 2000) (“Congress enacted the Carmack
Amendment ‘to create a national scheme of carrier
liability for goods damaged or lost during interstate
shipment under a valid bill of lading.' The Carmack
Amendment preempts a shipper's state and common law
claims against a carrier for loss or damage to goods during
shipment.” (quoting Shaw v. Link Cargo (Taiwan)
Ltd., 986 F.2d 700, 704 (4th Cir. 1993))); Richter
v. N. Am. Van Lines, Inc., 110 F.Supp.2d 406 (D. Md.
2000) (“[T]he Carmack Amendment preempts any causes of
action for fraud, breach of contract, or breach of
Maryland's Consumer Protection Act.”).
Monga contends that the Carmack Amendment does not apply to
A.B.S.'s conduct because the moving company only
transported his belongings within Maryland-state lines and
because UNIDO contracted with Allied, an entirely different
company from A.B.S., to ship the items from Baltimore to
Austria months after A.B.S. moved the goods pursuant to a
separate contract with Monga. Pl.'s Mot. 3-4. Defendants
respond that intrastate legs of foreign shipments are subject
to the Carmack Amendment where the intrastate leg is a
“continuation of foreign commerce.” Defs.'
Opp'n & Mot. 3-5 (quoting Swift Textiles, Inc. v.
Watkins Motor Lines, Inc., 799 F.2d 697, 700 (11th Cir.
1986)). And because Monga always intended his goods to be
shipped to Austria, Defendants argue that A.B.S.'s
intrastate transportation is covered by the Carmack
reads Reider v. Thompson, 339 U.S. 113 (1950) to
stand for the proposition that the Carmack Amendment covers
the intrastate leg of a shipment that contains both
intrastate and interstate components if both legs are
“part of a single transaction, ” meaning a single
contract governs the entire shipment or contractual privity
unites the intra- and interstate legs. Pl.'s Mot. 3-4.
Reider addressed whether or not the Carmack
Amendment applies to exports or only imports. 339 U.S. at
117. The cargo in that case traveled by ship from Buenos
Aires to New Orleans before being transported by rail to
Boston. Id. at 115. The Court held that the Carmack
Amendment applied to the shipment because the domestic leg
involved interstate transportation. Id. at 117. The
Court discussed privity of contract in the context of
determining whether the domestic portion of the shipment
could be analyzed apart from the international segment and
did not address whether and under what circumstances an
intrastate leg of a shipment is covered by the Carmack
Amendment. Id. Accordingly, Reider does not
resolve the pending matter.
relevant to the issue at hand, this Court has previously held
that the Carmack Amendment applies to the intrastate portion
of international shipments where the “intention formed
prior to shipment was for the goods to be carried by a
continuous or unified movement to a final destination beyond
the port of discharge.” Bongam Inv. Corp. v.
Pioneer Shipping Logistics, Inc., No. CCB-09-965, 2009
WL 1766782, at *2 (D. Md. June 9, 2009) (citing
Sompo Japan Ins. Co. of Am. v. Union Pac. R. Co.
R.R. Co., 456 F.3d 54, 63-68 (2d Cir. 2006),
abrogated on other grounds in Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd.
v. Regal-Beloit Corp., 561 U.S. 89 (2010); Swift
Textiles, 799 F.2d at 699-701). This test has its roots
in United States v. Erie R.R. Co., 280 U.S. 98
(1929), which held in the context of different federal
regulation of interstate transportation that the intra- or
interstate “nature of [a] shipment is . . . determined
by the essential character of the commerce” based upon
the shipper's “continuing intent.”
Id. at 101-02.
clear from the Complaint that Monga intended all along for
his household goods to be shipped to him in Austria. Compl.
¶ 15 (“Celestin Monga contacted Defendant A.B.S.
Moving & Storage to obtain an estimate of the costs to
pack and move the contents of his household . . . to an
A.B.S. Moving & Storage facility, to then be picked
up by another carrier for shipment to Vienna,
Austria.” (emphasis added)). But Monga argues that
the intra- and interstate portions of the shipment lacked
continuity or a “unifying element” because (1)
the A.B.S. contract did not reference the subsequent
interstate shipment; (2) the two legs involved different
contracting parties (Monga for the A.B.S. contract and UNIDO
for the Allied contract); and (3) the three-month interlude
between storage in Baltimore and subsequent shipment ...