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Federal Insurance Co. v. Royal Auto Trans Inc.

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

October 4, 2019

ROYAL AUTO TRANS INC., a corporation; STRATEGIC TRANSPORT, INC., a corporation; and T.G.R. LOGISTICS INC., a corporation, Defendants.

          Kevin M. Anderson Anderson And Yamada, P.C., Attorney for Defendant Strategic Transport, Inc.

          Martha J. Payne Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff, LLP, Marc S. Blubaugh Kelly E. Mulrane Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff, LLP, Attorneys for Defendant T.G.R. Logistics, Inc.

          OPINION & ORDER


         Before the Court is Defendant T.G.R. Logistics, Inc. (“T.G.R.”)'s motion to dismiss Defendant Strategic Transport, Inc. (“STI”)'s crossclaims. For the reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.


         Defendant STI is an authorized property broker registered pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 13904. STI Amended Answer and Crossclaims ¶ 31, ECF 40. T.G.R. is a Washington corporation that operates as an authorized motor carrier registered pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 13902. Id. ¶ 32. Both STI and T.G.R. are defendants in the lawsuit brought by Plaintiff Federal Insurance Company a/s/o Gregory Poole Equipment Co.

         Relevant to this motion, STI, acting as a broker on behalf of Gregory Poole Equipment Co., alleges that it entered into a contract with T.G.R. Id. ¶ 33. Under the terms of that contract, T.G.R. agreed to transport an industrial air compressor from Oregon to North Carolina using its own equipment. Id. STI alleges that T.G.R. breached that contract when it “double brokered the shipment” to Defendant Royal Auto Trans Inc. without STI's knowledge or consent. Id. ¶ 34.

         STI brings crossclaims against T.G.R. for (1) breach of contract; (2) contractual indemnity; and (3) common law indemnity.


         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the claims. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). “All allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Am. Family Ass'n, Inc. v. City & Cnty. of S.F., 277 F.3d 1114, 1120 (9th Cir. 2002). 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[, ]” meaning “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint must contain “well-pleaded facts” which “permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct[.]” Id. at 679.

         However, the court need not accept conclusory allegations as truthful. Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003). (“[W]e are not required to accept as true conclusory allegations which are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint, and we do not necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations”) (internal quotation marks, citation, and alterations omitted). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) will be granted if a plaintiff alleges the “grounds” of his “entitlement to relief” with nothing “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action[.]” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)[.]” Id. (citations and footnote omitted).


         T.G.R. moves to dismiss STI's crossclaims, alleging that each cause of action is preempted by 49 U.S.C. § 14706 (the “Carmack Amendment”). The Carmack Amendment “established a uniform national liability policy for interstate carriers, and preempts all state and common law claims against a carrier for damage to or loss of goods.” InTransit, Inc. v. Excel N. Am. Rd. Transp., Inc., 426 F.Supp.2d 1136, 1139-40 (D. Or. 2006).

         STI first argues that T.G.R. is a broker and the Carmack Amendment does not preempt claims against brokers. See, e.g., Chubb Group of Ins. Companies v. H.A. Transp. Systems, Inc., 243 F.Supp.2d 1064 (C.D. Cal. 2002); Rohr, Inc. v. UPS-Supply Chain Solutions, Inc., 939 F.Supp.2d 1041 (S.D. Cal. 2013); Professional Communications, Inc. v. Contract Freighters, Inc., 171 F.Supp.2d. 546, 551 (D. Md. 2001); Independent Machinery, 867 ...

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