United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS RE: ECF NO.
TIGAR United States District Judge.
Scott and Sarah Deming (the “Demings”) move to
dismiss Plaintiff United Van Lines, LLC's
(“United”) complaint. ECF No. 23. The Court will
deny the motion.
action arises from United's transport of the Demings'
household goods during their move from St. Paul, Minnesota to
San Francisco, California. Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 3.
Deming's employer, Capella Education Company, entered
into a contractual relationship with Plus Relocation
Services. Id. ¶ 9. In turn, Plus Relocation
Services contracted with United for motor carrier services
through a “Transportation Services Agreement.”
Id. ¶ 8. According to that agreement,
“Carrier's liability on an Item-by-Item basis
(excluding Extraordinary Value Items) shall be Full Value
Protection . . .” Id. ¶ 11. The agreement
further states that “Carrier's maximum liability
for loss or damage to any and all Items in a shipment shall
be the lesser of $5.00 per pound times the actual weight of
the shipment or $100, 000, ” and that “[t]here
shall be no charge for Carrier to assume this level of
liability.” Id. However, the agreement
provides that “Shipper may increase the level of
Carrier's maximum liability set forth above by declaring
such additional amount on the Bill of Lading and paying
charges for such additional amount equal to $.65 per $100.00
declared above Carrier's maximum liability level.”
and the Demings also executed a Household Goods Bill of
Lading contract for the move. Id. ¶14. That
contract similarly provides that, “[i]f any article is
lost, destroyed, or damaged while in your mover's
custody, your mover's liability is limited to the actual
weight of the lost, destroyed, or damaged article multiplied
by $5.00 per pound per article.” Id. ¶
15. It goes on to provide that, “[u]nder the Released
Level of Liability, your shipment will be transported based
on a value of $5.00 per pound multiplied by the actual weight
of the shipment.” Id. Finally, the Bill of
Lading states the following: “Your signature is
REQUIRED here: I acknowledge that for my shipment, I will
receive the Released Level of Liability of $5.00 per pound
per article.” Id. The Demings shipped 1, 066
pounds of household goods at $5.00 per pound and did not
declare any household goods as “Item-by-Item” or
“Extraordinary Value Items.” Id. ¶
transportation, the Demings' household goods suffered
water and mold damage. Id. at 17. The Demings have
demanded that United pay the full replacement value in the
amount of $48, 002.64. Id. ¶18. In response,
United offered the Demings $5, 330, which it contends is its
maximum contractual liability under both the Transportation
Services Agreement and Bill of Lading. Id.
¶¶ 19-20, 12.
complaint asserts a single count seeking declaratory judgment
that the Demings are not entitled to recover the full
replacement value of the damaged goods. Id. at 5-6.
Demings move to dismiss United's complaint on the ground
that United has not pled the existence of any contract
properly limiting its liability under the Carmack Amendment.
ECF No. 23 at 6.
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief” which gives “the defendant fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation
marks omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at
Court must determine whether United has plausibly alleged
that it is entitled to declaratory judgment that its
liability limitations were effective under the Carmack
Carmack Amendment “subjects a motor carrier
transporting cargo in interstate commerce to absolute
liability for ‘actual loss or injury to
property.'” Hughes Aircraft Co. v. N. Am. Van
Lines, Inc., 970 F.2d 609, 611-12 (9th Cir. 1992)
(citing Missouri Pacific R.R. Co. v. Elmore &
Stahl, 377 U.S. 134, 137 (1964)); see also, 49
U.S.C. § 14706(a)(1). “[A] carrier's maximum
liability for household goods that are lost, damaged,
destroyed, or otherwise not delivered to the final
destination is an amount equal to the replacement value of
such goods, subject to a maximum amount ...