United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendants A.B.S. Moving & Storage,
Inc., Natalie Smith, and Avi Sabban (collectively,
“A.B.S.”)'s Combined Motion for
Reconsideration and Motion to Dismiss. Defs.' Mot., ECF
No. 34. Plaintiff Celestin Monga alleges that A.B.S., a
moving company, took advantage of his absence from the United
States by refusing to release his household goods to an
international shipper until he paid additional fees that were
not disclosed in the company's estimate. Previously, I
held that Monga's Complaint, which brings exclusively
state-law claims, presents a federal question because the
Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C.
§ 14706, completely preempts some of his claims. Mem.
Op. 9, ECF No. 26. In accordance with Fourth Circuit law on
complete preemption, however, I held that the preempted
claims should not be dismissed, but rather should proceed as
if brought under the Carmack Amendment. Id. I also
held that the aspects of Monga's claims that dealt with
A.B.S.'s alleged overcharges rather than property loss or
damage could proceed as originally pled. Id. at 10.
A.B.S.'s Motion urges me to revisit the latter holding or
otherwise hold the remaining state-law claims preempted by
the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act
(“ICCTA”), 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1). The
Motion is fully briefed, Defs.' Mem., ECF No. 34-1;
Pl.'s Opp'n ECF No. 35; Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 36,
and no hearing is necessary, Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.). I do not
find that my previous ruling on the Carmack Amendment's
preemptive effect was clearly erroneous, so I will deny
A.B.S.'s Motion to Reconsider; however I do find that
Monga's remaining state-law claims-with the exception of
his breach-of-contract claim-are barred by the ICCTA's
preemption provision. Accordingly, I will grant A.B.S.'s
Motion to Dismiss in part and deny it in part.
previous Memorandum Opinion set forth the relevant facts:
In November 2014, Monga accepted a position with UNIDO [the
United Nations Industrial Development Organization] 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.
Mem. Op. 3-4.
54(b) provides that “any order or other decision,
however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the
claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the
parties . . . may be revised at any time before the entry of
a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the
parties' rights and liabilities.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
54(b). Although the Fourth Circuit has not articulated a
standard for reviewing such motions, see Am. Canoe
Ass'n v. Murphy Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514 (4th
Cir. 2003); Fayetteville Investors v. Commercial
Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1472 (4th Cir. 1991), the
standards for reviewing Rule 59(e) and 60(b) motions provide
guidance for the review of a Rule 54(b) motion, see
Cezair v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., No. DKC 13-2928,
2014 WL 4955535, at *1 (D. Md. Sept. 30, 2014). Rule 59(e)
permits reconsideration on the basis of, among other things,
“a need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest
injustice.” Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp.
LLC, 599 F.3d 403, 411 (4th Cir. 2010).
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for “the
dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Velencia v.
Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md.
Dec. 13, 2012). This rule's purpose “is to test the
sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Id. (quoting
Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480,
483 (4th Cir. 2006)). To that end, the Court bears in mind
the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), when considering a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint
must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state “a plausible claim
for relief, ” as “[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice, ” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678-79. See Velencia, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4
(discussing standard from Iqbal and
Twombly). “A claim has facial plausibility
when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. With respect to claims that allege fraud,
“a party must state with particularity the
circumstances constituting the fraud or mistake.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b). Fraud allegations that meet these
heightened pleading requirements “typically
‘include the time, place and contents of the false
representation, as well as the identity of the person making
the misrepresentation and what [was] obtained thereby.'
” Piotrowski v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No.
DKC-11-3758, 2013 WL 247549, at *5 (D. Md. Jan. 22, 2013)
(quoting Superior Bank, F.S.B. v. Tandem Nat'l
Mortg., Inc., 197 F.Supp.2d 298, 313-14 (D. Md. 2000)).
Carmack Amendment provides a federal cause of action to
recover damages from motor carriers for “actual loss or
injury to . . . property” during interstate
transportation. 49 U.S.C. § 14706(a)(1). The
Constitution's Supremacy Clause declares federal law
“the supreme Law of the Land . . . any Thing in the
Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary
notwithstanding.” U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2. “As
a result, federal statutes and regulations properly enacted
and promulgated ‘can nullify conflicting state or local
actions.' ” Coll. Loan Corp. v. SLM Corp.,
396 F.3d 588, 595 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Nat'l Home
Equity Mortg. Ass'n v. Face, 239 F.3d 633, 637 (4th
Cir. 2001)). Preemption takes three forms: (1) “express
preemption, ” where “Congress has clearly
expressed an intention” to nullify state law; (2)
“complete” or “field preemption, ”
where Congress “by legislating comprehensively”
expresses a clear intention to “occupy an entire field
of regulation”; and (3) “conflict preemption,
” where “state law conflicts with federal
law.” Id. at 596. The Supreme Court has held
that Congress intended the Carmack Amendment to completely
preempt overlapping state law. Adams Express Co. v.
Croninger, 226 U.S. 491, 505-06 (1913).
Carmack Amendment's preemptive reach depends on its
regulatory scope. A.B.S. argues that the provision preempts
all “ancillary causes of action related to the
transportation contract and the failure in the duty of the
carrier to deliver goods and not necessarily related to loss
and damage to those goods.” Defs.' Mem. 9. Monga
takes the position that the Carmack Amendment regulates
precisely what it says it regulates-“actual loss or
injury to . . . property.” Pl.'s Opp'n 6-7
(“If Congress intended for the Carmack Amendment to
limit all carrier liability in a transaction, it would be
written in the statute.”); 49 U.S.C. §
14706(a)(1). And that impulse informed my previous ruling.
Upon closer examination of the issue, and with the benefit of
more fulsome briefing with regard to the Carmack
Amendment's application to Monga's remaining state
law claims, I now see that while there is considerable
disagreement and even confusion regarding whether the Carmack
Amendment's preclusive effect extends beyond claims
related to the loss, damage, or delayed delivery of household
goods, some courts have indeed treated the Carmack Amendment
as regulating far more than its text suggests. Even so, it is
still not clear to me that it bars plaintiffs from bringing
state-law contract claims that related to overcharges and
unrelated to any loss, damage, or delay in delivery of the
early days of the Carmack Amendment, the Supreme Court held
that the statute encompasses “[a]lmost every
detail” of “the subject of the liability of the
carrier under a bill of lading.” Adams
Express, 226 U.S. at 505. And the Court has specifically
held that the law preempts state-law claims for damages
caused by delayed delivery, even though the statute is silent
on that issue. See Se. Express Co. v. Pastime Amusement
Co., 299 U.S. 28, 29-30 (1936) (per curiam). ...