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MRS. Ressler's Food Products v. Kzy Logistics, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 5, 2017

MRS. RESSLER'S FOOD PRODUCTS, Plaintiff,
v.
KZY LOGISTICS, LLC; LONGITUDE TRUCKING and/or LONGITUDE LOGISTICS, LLC,, Defendants.
v.
KZY LOGISTICS, LLC, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
BLUE GRACE LOGISTICS; NATIONAL LIABILITY & FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, Third-Party Defendants.

          OPINION

          WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Mrs. Ressler's Food Products (“Ressler”) brings this action against KZY Logistics, LLC (“KZY”) and Longitude Logistics, LLC (“Longitude”) (collectively “Defendants”), alleging alternative claims of breach of contract, negligence and disregard of duties and obligations under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 11706, et seq., in connection with the spoliation of a food products shipment. KZY brings a cross-claim against Longitude, a counterclaim against Ressler, and a third-party action against Blue Grace Logistics (“Blue Grace”), National Liability & Fire Insurance Company (“Insurer”) and Thermo King Corporation (“Thermo”) (collectively “Third-Party Defendants”), alleging that they are primarily responsible for Ressler's loss. This matter comes before the Court on Blue Grace's motion to dismiss KZY's third-party complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, Blue Grace's motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ressler is a manufacturer of deli food products with its principal place of business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. KZY is a common motor carrier incorporated in New Jersey, with its principal place of business in Fairfield, New Jersey. Id. at ¶ 2. Longitude is a common motor carrier incorporated in California, with its principal place of business in Anaheim Hills, California. Id. at ¶ 3. Blue Grace is a broker of motor carrier services with business across the United States. Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (“Blue Grace's Mot.”) 2, ECF No. 21.

         Ressler alleges that it retained Blue Grace to coordinate a shipment of its food product from Pennsylvania to California in March 2015. Compl. at ¶ 7. Blue Grace then retained Longitude to ship the product. Longitude, in turn, retained KZY to ship the product. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9. Ressler alleges that KZY understood that the shipment required special arrangements to ensure proper delivery. Id. at ¶ 10. Nonetheless, on March 17, 2015, Ressler's shipment arrived in California over the proper temperature, the sole responsibility of which belonged to KZY. Id. at ¶ 11. Ressler's customer rejected the shipment, which was returned to Ressler and subsequently destroyed, resulting in a loss of $69, 992.96. Id. at ¶¶ 13-15.

         Ressler sues KZY and Longitude for recovery of that loss pursuant to the Carmack Amendment. Id. at ¶ 18. In response, KZY denies liability, cross-claims that Longitude is primarily liable, counterclaims that Ressler was unjustly enriched by KZY's completion of delivery, and alleges third-party claims against Insurer, Blue Grace and Thermo. See First Am. Answer; Crossclaim; Counterclaim & Third Party Compl. (“KZY Compl.”), ECF No. 14. KZY alleges, in part, that Blue Grace scheduled and coordinated the delivery of the shipment and it, therefore, received a benefit when KZY completed delivery without compensation. See id. at 6 (¶¶ 3-5).

         Blue Grace now moves to dismiss KZY's third-party claim against it, arguing that KZY failed to state a claim and, in the alternative, that federal law preempts KZY's claim. See Blue Grace's Mot. at 1. Specifically, Blue Grace makes three arguments: (1) KZY's complaint lacks the requisite particularity under federal pleading standards, id. at 5-6; (2) KZY's unjust enrichment claim fails because there was no direct relationship between KZY and Blue Grace, from which Blue Grace derived a benefit, id. at 9[1]; and (3) the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”), 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1), and the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (“ICCTA”), 49 U.S.C. § 14501(b), preempt KZY's state-law quasi-contract claim, id. at 10-13.

         In response, KZY filed a terse, one-page opposition, in which it inexcusably cites no law or relevant precedent. See Mem. of Law in Supp. of KZY's Opp'n (“KZY's Opp'n”), ECF No. 22. KZY conclusively states that Blue Grace derived a benefit from KZY's delivery and that “it is of no consequence that the contract was not directly with KZY and Blue Grace, nor that Longitude was not allowed to contract out to KZY.” Id. Furthermore, KZY claims that Blue Grace's motion is premature because KZY believes that Blue Grace did not pay Longitude for the delivery and because Longitude has not yet filed an answer to the original complaint. Id. KZY did not address Blue Grace's federal preemption argument. Id.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff 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 under Rule 12(b)(6), 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).

         Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a 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 plaintiff's 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.” Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court will first address generally the federal preemption provisions found in the FAAAA and the ICCTA. The Court will then turn to Blue Grace's preemption argument. In addition, the federal preemption provision of the Carmack Amendment compels further consideration of Ressler's apparent breach of contract and negligence claims. The Court ultimately concludes that federal law preempts KZY's unjust enrichment claim and Ressler's claims sounding in breach of contract and negligence.

         A. Federal Preemption Under ...


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