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Prussin v. Bekins Van Lines, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

February 3, 2015



HOWARD R. LLOYD, Magistrate Judge.

Husband and wife Jeffrey and Judy Prussin sue for damages to their personal property allegedly sustained during a cross-country move. The remaining defendants are Bekins Van Lines, LLC (Bekins) and Triple Crown Maffucci Storage Corporation (TCM).[1] On the record presented, and unless otherwise indicated, the basic undisputed (or unrefuted) facts are these:

In the Fall of 2008, the Prussins planned to move from New York to Florida. They selected Bekins as their mover. In December 2008, TCM arrived at plaintiffs' New York City apartment and packed up their belongings. TCM says that it then transported the property from plaintiffs' residence to TCM's warehouse in Amityville, New York.

The following month, plaintiffs changed their destination from Florida to California.[2] According to TCM, plaintiffs' belongings remained in TCM's Amityville warehouse until December 2009, when the property was picked up by Bekins for transportation to California.

Plaintiffs claim that when they unpacked their property at their new California residence, much of it was damaged or missing entirely. Defendants dispute plaintiffs' claims, contending that plaintiffs either suffered no damages or are overstating them.

The Prussins filed the instant lawsuit, asserting claims against Bekins and TCM for negligence and for violation of the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 14706(c)(1)(A).

TCM now moves for summary judgment on the Carmack Amendment claim, arguing that it is a broker, not a carrier, and therefore cannot be held liable under that statute. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. All parties have expressly consented that all proceedings in this matter may be heard and finally adjudicated by the undersigned. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. Upon consideration of the moving and responding papers, as well as the arguments of counsel, this court denies the motion.


A motion for summary judgment should be granted if 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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion, and identifying portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, or affidavits which demonstrate the absence of a triable issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In order to meet its burden, "the moving party must either produce evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim or defense or show that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial." Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Companies, Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000).

If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence supporting its claims or defenses. See Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd., 210 F.3d at 1102. The non-moving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's evidence, but instead must produce admissible evidence that shows there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. See id. A genuine issue of fact is one that could reasonably be resolved in favor of either party. A dispute is "material" only if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49.

"When the nonmoving party has the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only point out that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.'" Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325). Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but must present evidence sufficient to demonstrate that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.


A. Plaintiffs' Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d) Request for Continuance

Claiming that the issues raised in the instant motion were unanticipated, plaintiffs request permission to conduct discovery pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). That rule provides: "If a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may (1) defer considering the motion or deny it; (2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or (3) issue any other appropriate order." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). "A party requesting a continuance pursuant to Rule 56(f) [now 56(d)] must identify by affidavit the specific facts that further discovery would reveal, and explain why those facts would preclude ...

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