United States District Court, D. New Jersey
GEORGE E. WARREN CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
COLONIAL PIPELINE COMPANY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
matter comes before the court on the motion of the defendant,
Colonial Pipeline Company, to dismiss Count II of this
two-count complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated herein, the
motion will be granted.
allegations of the Complaint ("Cplt.", ECF no. 1)
are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion.
(See Section II.A, infra.) Because Colonial
presents a pure issue of law, the following summary is brief.
Colonial, a common carrier, operates an interstate pipeline
which transports gasoline and other petroleum products. As a
common carrier, Colonial performs a service for hire; it does
not own the petroleum products that it transports. Plaintiff
George E. Warren Corporation ("GEW") regularly uses
Colonial's pipeline to transport its petroleum products
from Texas to New Jersey. At its plants in New Jersey, GEW
blends the petroleum product.
announced that a Joint Venture of which GEW is a member is
building a blending facility in Georgia. That blending
facility will inject butane into the shippers' gasoline
as it passes through the pipeline. Colonial will thereby
dilute the gasoline and create excess product, which Colonial
will sell for its own profit. GEW alleges that it will be
harmed by receiving diluted, degraded product, and by losing
the benefit of the excess product siphoned off by
Colonial. In particular, the already-blended product
will be in a diluted state, so that GEW cannot blend it
further. (Cplt. ¶ 23)
Complaint has two Counts. Count I seeks a declaratory
judgment and damages under the Carmack Amendment. Count II
seeks a declaratory judgment and damages under the state law
tort of conversion. Count II is expressly pled in the
alternative, "[i]f the Court determines the conduct
described above is outside the Carmack Amendment."
(Cplt. ¶ 36)
moves to dismiss Count II of the Complaint only. (ECF no. 5)
GEW has filed a response (ECF no. 8), and Colonial has filed
a reply (ECF no. 9). The matter is thus fully briefed and
ripe for decision. Because I agree that the state-law tort
allegations are subsumed and preempted by the Carmack
Amendment, I will grant the motion.
Standard on a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion
Civ. P. 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint,
in whole or in part, if it fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of
showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United
States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a
motion to dismiss, a court must take all allegations in the
complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490,
501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v.
Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998);
see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) ("reasonable inferences"
principle not undermined by later Supreme Court
Twombly case, infra).
Civ. P. 8(a) does not require that a complaint contain
detailed factual allegations. Nevertheless, "a
plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his
'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the factual
allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiffs right to
relief above a speculative level, such that it is
"plausible on its face." See Id. at 570;
see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d
59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). A claim has "facial plausibility
when 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) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "[t]he
plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability
requirement'... it asks for more than a sheer
possibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009).
Carmack Amendment Preemption of State Conversion Claim
Carmack Amendment "preempts all state or common law
remedies available to a shipper against a carrier for loss or
damage to interstate shipments." See Certain
Underwriters at Interest at Lloyds of London v. United Parcel
Serv. of Am., Inc.,762 F.3d 332, 336 (3d Cir. 2014)
(quoting N. Am. Van Lines, Inc. v. Pinkerton Sec.
Sys.t Inc.,89 F.3d 452, 456 (7th Cir.
1996)); Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co. v.
Harold,241 U.S. 371, 378 (1916) ("[t]he Carmack
Amendment...was an assertion of the power of Congress over
the subject of interstate shipments...which, in the nature of
things, excluded state action"); Intech, Inc. v.
Consolidated Freightways, Inc.,836 F.2d 672, ...