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MALLORY v. ALLIED VAN LINES

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania


April 6, 2004.

CAROL MALLORY, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLIED VAN LINES, INC., and LIBERTY MOVING & STORAGE, Defendants

The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEGROME DAVIS, District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 35). For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

  In August, 2000, Plaintiff Carol Mallory ("Mallory") moved from New York, New York to Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, and contracted with Allied Van Lines, Inc. ("Allied"), through its disclosed agent, Liberty Moving & Storage ("Liberty") (collectively, "Defendants") to transport her property. Compl. ¶ 1, 8 (Dkt. No. 7). On February 14, 2003, Plaintiff filed a two-count complaint against Defendants. Plaintiff alleged in Count One that Defendants negligently lost "certain priceless documents" during the move and, in Count Two, that she suffered psychological injury and mental anguish as a result of Defendants' negligence. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 13. Shortly thereafter, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Dkt. Nos. 11 & 13). By Memorandum and Order of October 20, 2003, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's common law claim for emotional injury, but allowed her to proceed against Defendants under the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 11706 (the "Carmack Amendment"). Defendants now move for summary judgment.

  II. Standard of Review

  Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(V); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986). In reviewing the record, "a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party's favor." Armbruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 777 (3d Cir. 1994). The moving party bears the burden of showing that the record discloses no genuine issues as to any material fact and that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608 (1970). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986). There is a genuine issue for trial "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. "Such affirmative evidence — regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial — must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance." Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989). III. Analysis

  To establish a prima facie case against a common carrier under the Carmack Amendment, a plaintiff must prove the following three elements: "(1) delivery of the goods to the initial carrier in good condition, (2) damage of the goods before delivery to their final destination, and (3) the amount of damages." Conair Corp. v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 22 F.3d 529, 531 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing 49 U.S.C. § 11707(a)(1)). Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that her missing documents were delivered to Allied. Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defs.' Mem.") 2-7.

  Where the goods are open and visible to the carrier, a plaintiff can rely solely on a bill of lading to establish the contents of the container. See Beta Spawn, Inc. v. FFE Transp. Serv. Inc., 250 F.3d 218, 225 (3d Cir. 2001). Where the goods are not open and visible to the carrier, however, a plaintiff must produce evidence, other than a bill of lading, to establish the contents of the container. See id. at 224-25. The Court need not decide whether the documents were open and visible because Plaintiff relies on evidence — direct and circumstantial — to establish that they were delivered to Allied. Specifically, Plaintiff testified during her deposition that she placed the documents in certain plastic bins when packing for her move and observed the movers removing those bins from her apartment in New York for transport to Plymouth Meeting. Deposition of Carol Mallory ("Mallory Dep.") 63-64, 70, 87-91. She further testified that the documents were not in the bins when she received them in Plymouth Meeting. Id. at 88-89. As a result, she refused to sign the bill of lading until the movers wrote the following on it: "Missing contents of 3 plastic bins. Journalism transcripts edited by public figure." Id. at 45-46; Defs.' Mem., Ex. A. After reviewing the record, the Court finds that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Plaintiff delivered her missing documents to Allied. There is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find in favor of Plaintiff. Therefore, Defendants Motion for Summary Judgement is denied to the extent that it seeks dismissal of this case in its entirety.

  Next, Defendants argue that the disclosed principal in this case, Allied, is the only party that can be held liable under the Carmack Amendment for the alleged loss of Plaintiffs goods. Defs.' Mem. 7-8. According to Defendants, Liberty, as Allied's agent, is not liable for Allied's failure to perform the moving contract. Id. The Court agrees. Courts have regularly applied agency principles to Carmack Amendment claims. See Seguros Banvenez, S.A. v. S/S Oliver Drescher, 761 F.2d 855, 860 (2d Cir. 1985); Atl. & Gulf Stevedores, Inc. v. Revelle Shipping Agency, Inc., 750 F.2d 457, 458 (5th Cir. 1985); O'Donnel v. Earle W. Noves & Sons, 98 F. Supp.2d 60, 63 (D. Me. 2000); Werner v. Lawrence Transp. Sys., Inc., 52 F. Supp.2d 567, 568-69 (E.D.N.C. 1998); Fox v. Kachina Moving & Storage, No. 3:98-CV-0842-AH, 1998 WL 760268, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 21, 1998). The Restatement (Second) of Agency provides that when an agent makes a contract for a disclosed principal, the agent becomes neither a party to the contract nor liable for the performance of the contract. Restatement (Second) of Agency § 320, ("Unless otherwise agreed, a person making or purporting to make a contract with another as agent for a disclosed principal does not become a party to the contract."), § 328 ("An agent, by making a contract only on behalf of a competent disclosed or partially disclosed principal whom he has power so to bind, does not thereby become liable for its nonperformance."). Here, Plaintiff contracted with Allied, through its disclosed agent, Liberty to transport her property from New York to Plymouth Meeting. There is nothing to suggest Liberty acted negligently or outside the scope of its agency. See 3 C.J.S. Agency §§ 362, 379; Restatement (Second) of Agency § 343. Therefore, Liberty is dismissed as a defendant in this case.

  ACCORDINGLY, this ___ day of April, 2004, upon consideration of Defendants Allied Van Lines, Inc. and Liberty Moving & Storage's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 35), and Plaintiff Carol Mallory's response thereto, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants' Motion is GRANTED IN PART, in that Liberty Moving & Storage is dismissed as a defendant in this case, and DENIED IN PART, in that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Plaintiff delivered her missing documents to Allied Van Lines, Inc. IT IS HEREBY FURTHER ORDERED that Judgment is entered in favor of Defendant Liberty Moving & Storage City and against Plaintiff Carol Mallory.

  ORDER

  AND NOW, this ___ day of April, 2004, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that in accordance with Rule 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, judgment is entered in favor of Defendant Liberty Moving & Storage and against Plaintiff Carol Mallory.

20040406

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