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Contessa Premium Foods, Inc. and Zurich American Insurance Company v. Cst Lines

August 18, 2011

CONTESSA PREMIUM FOODS, INC. AND ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CST LINES, INC.; FAR EAST CARRIER LLC; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 15, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Ronald S.W. Lew Senior, U.S. District Court Judge

No JS-6

ORDER re: Plaintiffs Contessa Premium Foods and Zurich American Insurance Company's Motion for Summary Judgment [19], and Defendant CST Lines, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment [20]

On July 15, 2011, Plaintiffs Contessa Premium Foods, Inc. ("Contessa") and Zurich American Insurance Company ("Zurich") filed the present motion for Summary Judgment, or in the alternative, Summary Adjudication

[19]. Defendant CST Lines, Inc. ("CST Lines") concurrently filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment

[20]. Both motions were set for hearing on August 9, 2011 and taken under submission on August 5, 2011. After considering all of the papers and arguments submitted on these matters, THE COURT NOW FINDS AND RULES AS FOLLOWS:

The Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiffs Contessa and Zurich's Motion for Summary Judgment. Furthermore, the Court DENIES, in its entirety, Defendant CST Lines's Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 28, 2008, Plaintiff Contessa Premium Foods, Inc. ("Plaintiff Contessa") a producer and distributor of frozen food products, and Defendant CST Lines, Inc. ("Defendant CST Lines"), a federally licensed motor carrier and broker, entered into a Motor Carrier Agreement ("Agreement") to transport 48 pallets of frozen food products ("the shipment") from Plaintiff Contessa's Green Cuisine Plant in Commerce, California to an Indianapolis, Indiana warehouse. Defendant CST Lines agreed to provide temperature controlled transportation for all shipments tendered by Plaintiff Contessa and maintain the reefer units at a constant minus ten degrees Fahrenheit. The Agreement also includes provisions stating that the Carrier (Defendant CST Lines), in the transportation of any shipment on behalf of the Shipper (Plaintiff Contessa), fully assumes liability for any and all loss or damage to the shipment or any portions thereof.

Thereafter, Defendant CST Lines sub-contracted with a separate trucking company, Far East Carrier, LLC ("Far East Carrier"), to pick up, transport, and deliver the shipment pursuant to a broker agreement between Defendant CST Lines and Far East Carrier.*fn1

Defendant CST Lines instructed Far East Carrier to check-in and sign paperwork as "CST Lines, Inc." when picking up the shipment from Plaintiff Contessa. (Pl.'s Mot. 3).

On September 14, 2009, a truck driver employed by Far East Carrier received delivery of the shipment from Plaintiff Contessa's plant in California. At the time of delivery, the truck driver who received the shipment stated on the bill of lading, under the "Trucker Name" line, that he was picking up the goods on behalf of "Far East."

Immediately after Far East Carrier picked up the shipment, Plaintiff Contessa faxed Defendant CST Lines a "shipment manifest," which noted that Defendant would receive payment of $4,200 for its transportation services. Defendant CST Lines directly invoiced Plaintiff Contessa for the entire $4,200 without informing Plaintiff that it had subcontracted the load to Far East Carrier.

The frozen food shipment was delivered to the agreed upon location in Indiana, at a temperature which caused damage to the shipment.

II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A genuine issue is one in which the evidence is such that a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party." Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (2007).

Once the moving party makes this showing, the non-moving party must set forth facts showing that a genuine issue of disputed fact remains. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. The non-moving party is required by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 56(e)*fn2 to go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial exists. Id. at 324.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Evidentiary Objections

As a preliminary matter, in ruling on a Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court considers only evidence that is admissible at trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Here, Defendant CST Lines filed objections to the use of certain declarations and various excerpts of deposition testimony used in support of Plaintiffs' motion. The Motor Carrier Agreement attached to the Deposition Testimony of Defendant's 30(b)(6) designee Christopher Erickson and the Declaration of Jennifer Pedersen are ...


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