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Miranda v. C.H. Robinson Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 13, 2019

ELLIOTT MIRANDA and ESTRELITA MIRANDA, husband and wife
v.
C.H. ROBINSON CO., et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          BAYLSON, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This Civil Action arises from injuries Plaintiffs Elliott and Estrelita Miranda allegedly suffered as a result of boxes of pineapples falling on Plaintiff Elliott Miranda as he unloaded them from a container in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint, (ECF 64, “Am. Compl.”), against Defendants C.H. Robinson Company, C.H. Robinson Company, Inc., C.H. Robinson International, Inc., C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. (collectively “C.H. Robinson”), Isabella Shipping Co., Ltd. (“Isabella”), [1] Upala Agricola, S.A. (“Upala”), and Transportes Grant, S.A. (“Transportes”), alleging five Counts against all Defendants:

1. Count I: Negligence under Pennsylvania State Law;
2. Count II: Maritime and Admiralty Negligence;
3. Count III: Strict Liability under Pennsylvania State Law;
4. Count IV: Negligence of Vessel under 33 U.S.C. § 905(b) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (the “Longshore Act”); and
5. Count V: Loss of Consortium under Pennsylvania State Law.

(Am. Compl. ¶¶ 173-210.)

         Before this Court is Upala's Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6), (ECF 70, “Def. Upala MtD”), as well as C.H. Robinson's Partial Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), (ECF 77, “Def. C.H. Robinson MtD.”) Upala contends that this Court cannot assert personal jurisdiction over it. Both Upala and C.H. Robinson (the “Moving Defendants”) contend that Plaintiffs fail to state a strict liability claim under Pennsylvania law, or a negligence of vessel claim under the Longshore Act. Plaintiffs concede their claims under the Longshore Act must be dismissed, but otherwise oppose dismissal of their Amended Complaint. For the reasons stated below, Upala and C.H. Robinson's Motions to Dismiss will be granted as to Plaintiffs' claim under the Longshore Act, but will otherwise be denied.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Drawing from Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint and the jurisdictional discovery, the factual background is as follows. C.H. Robinson and Upala have an ongoing agreement to ship Upala's pineapples to C.H. Robinson in the United States. (Am. Compl. ¶ 25.) Under the agreement, Upala was to deliver the pineapples involved in this case to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Am. Compl. ¶ 44; Pl.'s Resp. to Def. C.H. Robinson MtD Ex. 8-9.)

         Upala “grow[s], harvest[s], processe[s], [and] package[s]” pineapples at its farm in Costa Rica. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27.) Pursuant to a purchase order made by C.H. Robinson, Upala, “loaded, palletized, secured, and stowed” 1500 boxes of pineapples into a shipping container provided by Transportes on April 2, 2016. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10, 21, 27-28; Pl.'s Resp. to Def. C.H. Robinson MtD Ex. 9.) While the pineapples were being loaded, a third-party hired by C.H. Robinson inspected the pineapples and the shipping container. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 38-39.)

         Several days later, Transportes drove the container filled with pineapples to a shipping port in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, where the container was placed onto a ship destined for Philadelphia. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 26, 29-30, 34.) The shipment left Costa Rica, and arrived in Philadelphia on April 12, 2016. (Am. Compl. ¶ 149.) The bill of lading associated with the shipment listed Upala as the exporter and shipper, and C.H. Robinson as the consignee. (Am. Compl. Ex. 1.)

         On April 13, 2016, Plaintiff Elliott Miranda, a stevedore[2] in Philadelphia, opened the shipping container to inspect the pineapples. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 154-55.) As he did so, a number of the pineapples fell onto him uncontrollably. (Am. Compl. ¶ 155.) The impact caused multiple injuries, including a broken ankle that required emergency surgery. (Am. Compl. ¶ 156.)

         Plaintiffs originally filed this Action in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on September 5, 2017. (ECF 1.) Defendants removed the Action on February 6, 2018 to this Court, and Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on July 3, 2019. (ECF 1, 64, 67.) Upala moved to dismiss the entire Amended Complaint, and C.H. Robinson moved to dismiss two of the Amended Complaint's five counts. (ECF 70, 77.) Plaintiffs filed Responses in Opposition to both Motions to Dismiss. (ECF 103, 110, 116.) Moving Defendants each filed a reply. (ECF 118, 119.) The Court held oral argument on the Motions to Dismiss on October 25, 2019. ...


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