United States District Court, D. New Jersey
INTERPOOL, INC. D/B/A TRAC INTERMODAL Plaintiff,
FOUR HORSEMEN, INC., et al., Defendants.
L. COOPER United States District Judge
Interpool, Inc. d/b/a Trac Intermodal
(“Plaintiff”) initiated this action against Ayeah
A. Ayesh; Four Horsemen, Inc.; and A&A Exp, Inc.
(collectively, “Defendants”), alleging that the
Defendants breached a maritime contract with Plaintiff by
utilizing Plaintiff's chassis to move maritime cargo
without compensating Plaintiff. (See dkt.
Defendants failed to timely respond, and Plaintiff moved for
entry of default and entry of judgment by default.
(See dkt. 20, dkt. 27, dkt. 28.) Before resolving
Plaintiff's motion for entry of judgment by default, the
Court, exercising its obligation to satisfy itself that it
has subject matter jurisdiction over this action, ordered
Plaintiff to show cause why the action should not be
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
(See dkt. 29.) The Court also invited Plaintiff to
assert an alternative basis for jurisdiction to prevent the
action from being dismissed if the Court were to find
admiralty jurisdiction lacking. Plaintiff responded, arguing
that this Court has both admiralty jurisdiction and diversity
jurisdiction. (See dkt. 30.) For the reasons
discussed below, the Court is unpersuaded by Plaintiff's
arguments that it has admiralty jurisdiction. The Court will
therefore grant its order to show cause, concluding that the
Court does not have admiralty jurisdiction. As a result, the
Court must also vacate the writs of maritime garnishment
previously issued in favor of Plaintiff under Supplemental
Rule B of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Because
Plaintiff has alleged an alternative basis for jurisdiction,
the Court will not dismiss the case at this juncture, but
will issue another order to show cause in light of the
Plaintiff's failure to allege personal jurisdiction.
following facts are taken from the complaint, the materials
submitted in support of the default judgment motion, and
Plaintiff's response to the Court's order to show
cause. Plaintiff is a Delaware corporation in the business of
leasing marine equipment, namely chassis, for the movement of
cargo. (See dkt. 1 at 2, dkt. 30-2.) The Defendants
took Plaintiff's chassis from chassis pools in certain marine
ports “for delivery of marine cargo to consignees, to
and from ports of the United States, including, inter
alia, the Port of Chicago, ” and have refused to
compensate the Plaintiff. (Dkt. 1 at 2.) Plaintiff's
Manager of Credit, Claims and Litigation, Karen Wolcott,
Defendants used [Plaintiff's] marine equipment to
transport ocean containers between various ports. The ocean
containers transported by Defendants were carried pursuant to
bills of lading, which provided for the landing of the ocean
import cargo and continuous on-carriage by train to the
railhead, and then on [Plaintiff's] chassis [ ] to the
(Dkt. 30-1 at 2, (“Wolcott Declaration”.))
on the information supplied to the Court by the Plaintiff, it
is this Court's understanding that the Defendants took
Plaintiff's chassis so that the Defendants could
transport ocean import cargo pursuant to the final land
portion (i.e., from railhead to consignee) of a
“through” (i.e., end-to-end transportation) bill
of lading. The question before the Court is thus whether a
contract to lease chassis to a carrier so that the carrier
may transport cargo from a railhead to a consignee pursuant
to a “through” bill of lading provides this court
with admiralty jurisdiction.
Court has an obligation to satisfy itself that it has subject
matter jurisdiction over a case and may address the issue
sua sponte, if need be. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(h)(3); Nesbit v. Gears Unlimited, Inc., 347 F.3d
72, 76 (3d Cir. 2003). The burden of proving subject matter
jurisdiction is on the plaintiff. CNA v. United
States, 535 F.3d 132, 139 (3d Cir. 2008). Federal
district courts have original jurisdiction over “[a]ny
civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction.” 28
U.S.C. § 1333(1). Thus, if the contract between the
parties is a maritime contract, the Court has subject matter
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333.
Supreme Court has recognized that “[t]he boundaries of
admiralty jurisdiction over contracts . . . have always been
difficult to draw.” Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v.
Kirby, 543 U.S. 14, 23 (2004). In Kirby, a
cargo owner entered into two bills of lading with a freight
forwarding company to arrange for the transportation of goods
from Australia to Alabama. Id. at 18. The journey
included a sea component (from Australia to Savannah,
Georgia) and a land component (from Savannah, Georgia to
Huntsville, Alabama). Id. at 19-20. During the land
portion of the journey, a train carrying the cargo derailed.
Id. at 21. The cargo was destroyed, and litigation
commenced. Id. The Court initially had to decide
whether the bills of lading were maritime contracts (even
though they included land portions) because, if they were,
federal law would apply to the underlying claims.
Id. at 22-23. Looking to the “nature and
character of the contract, ” the Court held that the
bills of lading were maritime contracts “because their
primary objective [wa]s to accomplish the transportation of
goods by sea from Australia to the eastern coast of the
United States.” Id. at 24.
rationale of Kirby was that maritime law must accept
the modern realities of maritime transportation:
Maritime commerce has evolved along with the nature of
transportation and is often inseparable from some land-based
obligations. The international transportation industry
clearly has moved into a new era--the age of multimodalism,
door-to-door transport based on efficient use of all
available modes of transportation by air, water, and land.
The cause is technological change: Because goods can now be
packaged in standardized containers, cargo can move easily
from one mode of transport to another.
Contracts reflect the new technology, hence the popularity of
“through” bills of lading in which cargo owners
can contract for transportation across and to inland
destinations in a single transaction. . . . The popularity of
that efficient choice, to assimilate land legs into
international ocean bills ...