United States District Court, D. New Mexico
WENDY KELLOG, STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiffs,
WHEATON VAN LINES, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for
Summary Judgment on Defendant's Second and Third Defenses
(Doc. 19) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 24). The issues contained in these Motions
substantially overlap. The central question is whether
Plaintiffs' claims are either time barred or, in the case
of Plaintiffs' state law claims, preempted under 49
U.S.C. § 14706 (“Carmack Amendment”). For
the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is well-taken and
shall be GRANTED. Because the Court grants Defendant's
Motion, Plaintiffs' Motion is accordingly DENIED.
undisputed material facts are as follows. In early September
2013, Plaintiff Wendy Kellog contracted with Defendant
Wheaton Van Lines to move her personal belongings from
Yorktown Heights, New York, to Solana Beach, California. Doc.
19 at 2; Doc. 23. A bill of lading set forth the contractual
terms for the shipment of Kellog's
belongings. On October 18, 2013, as a result of a
problem at the van's rear trailer axle, the moving van
caught fire in New Mexico and destroyed Kellog's
belongings. Doc. 19 at 2; Doc. 23 at 4. The damage to
Kellog's property totaled $59, 674.48. Doc. 30-4 at 10.
Kellog had insurance through State Farm which, after applying
the $5000 deductible, paid her $54, 674.48. Doc. 30-4 at 10.
parties do not dispute that they exchanged the following
communications in the aftermath of the fire. Doc. 19 at 3;
Doc. 23 at 2-3. On November 8, 2013, State Farm, on behalf of
Kellog, notified Wheaton of the loss. State Farm's letter
stated, “Please consider this as notice of our possible
subrogation claim[.]” Doc. 23-2 at 4. On January 22,
2014, State Farm sent a second letter to Wheaton representing
that State Farm considered Wheaton responsible for the loss.
Doc. 30-4 at 3. The letter referenced a claim number that
Wheaton had established for the matter. Doc. 30-4 at 3.
However, the letter indicated that the amount of the claim
was “to be determined.” Doc. 30-4 at 3. On
January 23, 2014, State Farm sent a similar letter to
Wheaton's insurance carrier, McLarens International. Doc.
23-2 at 6. This letter indicated that State Farm had paid
Kellog for her loss, that State Farm considered Wheaton
responsible for the loss, and that it was State Farm's
position that it was entitled to recovery from Wheaton. Doc.
23-2 at 6. The letter again reiterated that the amount of the
claim was “to be determined” and that
“[o]nce our claim handling has been completed, we will
provide you with documentation to support our subrogation
demand.” Doc. 23-2 at 6.
February 6, 2014, McLarens International confirmed receipt of
the letter and notice of subrogation interest and requested
that it be updated regarding the matter. Doc. 30-4 at 6.
McLarens International requested that State Farm provide it
“with the loss inventory and supporting documentation
for [State Farm's] subrogation claim.” Doc. 30-4 at
6. McLarens International's letter also included a
reference number for the matter. Doc. 30-4 at 6. McLarens
International further notified State Farm on April 1, 2014
that an examination of the moving van would occur on April
18, 2014. Doc. 30-4 at 8. On February 19, 2015, McLarens
International again requested in writing that State Farm
provide it “with the loss inventory and supporting
documentation for your subrogation claim.” Doc. 30-4 at
9. State Farm did not respond to that letter until over a
year later. On May 9, 2016, State Farm replied that its
subrogation demand totaled $59, 674.48. Doc. 30-4 at 10. To
date, Defendant has not paid Plaintiffs' claim and on
September 19, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), this Court must
“grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of
“show[ing] that there is an absence of evidence to
support the nonmoving party's case.” Bacchus
Indus., Inc. v. Arvin Indus., Inc., 939 F.2d 887, 891
(10th Cir. 1991) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Once the movant meets this burden,
Rule 56(c) requires the non-moving party to designate
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324;
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256
issue is ‘genuine' if there is sufficient evidence
on each side so that a rational trier of fact could resolve
the issue either way. An issue of fact is
‘material' if under the substantive law it is
essential to the proper disposition of the claim.”
Thom v. Bristol Myers Squibb Co., 353 F.3d 848, 851
(10th Cir. 2003) (internal citation omitted). “A party
asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must
support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of
materials in the record . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(1)(A). All material facts set forth in the motion and
response which are not specifically controverted are deemed
undisputed. D.N.M.LR-Civ. 56.1(b).
reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court should
keep in mind three principles. First, the court's role is
not to weigh the evidence, but to determine whether a genuine
issue exists as to material facts requiring a trial. See
Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249. Second, the court must
resolve all reasonable inferences and doubts in favor of the
non-moving party, and construe all evidence in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. See Hunt v.
Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 550-55 (1999). Third, the court
cannot decide any issues of credibility. See Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255. “[T]o survive the . . .
motion, [the nonmovant] need only present evidence from which
a jury might return a verdict in his favor.”
Id. at 257.
initial matter, the Court addresses ambiguity in the bases on
which Plaintiffs' support their Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment (Doc. 19). Both the title of the motion and
the opening sentence represent that Plaintiffs are moving for
summary judgment on Defendant's second and third
affirmative defenses. See Doc. 19 at 1
(“Plaintiffs…hereby move this Court for partial
summary judgment on the Second and Third
Defenses…”). Defendant's second defense is
that “The Carmack Amendment completely pre-empts any
and all state law-based claims against a carrier arising out
of the loss of or damage to the goods being carried.”
Doc. 6 at 3. Both in their analysis and their proposed
undisputed material facts, however, Plaintiffs neither argue
nor cite evidence relevant to whether their state law claims
are preempted. Plaintiffs instead cite to Defendant's
fourth defense in their undisputed material facts which is
that Plaintiffs' claims are time barred based on the
contract between Kellog and Wheaton. Doc. 19 at 1 (citing
Doc. 6 at 3). Additionally, Plaintiffs request at the end of
their motions that the Court “grant partial summary
judgment to Plaintiffs…as to Defenses Three and Four
in the answer…” Doc. 19 at 5. Because Plaintiffs
offer neither evidence nor argument relevant to the issue of
whether their state law claims are preempted by the Carmack
Amendment, the Court construes Plaintiffs' Motion to be a
request that partial summary judgment be entered in their
favor in regard to Defendant's third and fourth defenses.
said, in further reviewing Plaintiffs' briefing, the
Court is unable to parse the difference between
Plaintiffs' arguments regarding the adequacy of their
claim under the Carmack Amendment and the adequacy of the
claim pursuant to the contractual arrangement between the
parties. Plaintiffs' argument section totals four
relatively succinct paragraphs contending that Plaintiffs
gave adequate notice of their claim. See Doc. 19 at
4-5. While Plaintiffs appear to further expound on the
contractual provisions in their reply brief, the relevant
portions of the contract cited by Plaintiffs do no more than
reiterate the notice provisions of the Carmack Amendment and
the controlling regulation, 49 C.F.R. §
370.3. In other words, because the bill of lading
requires that a claim be filed in accordance with the Carmack
Amendment, to the extent the Court will address the
parties' contract, it will do so in relation to whether
Plaintiffs' notice of claim was sufficient pursuant to
the Carmack Amendment.
this confusion aside, the Court clarifies the issues before
it. First, Plaintiffs and Defendant both seek summary
judgment on the issue of whether Plaintiffs' claim was
adequate and timely pursuant to the Carmack Amendment.
Second, Defendant argues it is entitled to summary judgment
on Plaintiffs' state law claims because the Carmack
Amendment preempts those claims. The Court will address these
issues in turn.
Plaintiffs' Failed to Provide a Timely Claim for a