United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. CAUTHRON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brought claims of negligent investigation and conversion
against Defendant Federal Express Corporation
(“FedEx”) for the theft of Plaintiff's
shipment. Now before the Court is FedEx's Motion for
Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 25.) Plaintiff has responded and
the Motion is now at issue.
is suing Defendants regarding the loss of a shipment
containing 300 ounces of gold bars and coins shipped via
FedEx valued at approximately $389, 430. Plaintiff tendered
the package and declared its value as one thousand dollars
($1, 000) on May 9, 2014. FedEx transported the package from
Redmond, Washington to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. When the
shipment arrived in Oklahoma City on May 10th, a FedEx
employee, Defendant Justin Digby, stole the package. A FedEx
Security Specialist, Kerry Brooks, investigated the
package's disappearance. Brooks began the investigation
on May 15th and filed a report with the Oklahoma City Police
Department the next day. Brooks and the detective who took
his report agreed Brooks should conduct an internal
investigation and then bring his findings to the police
because two investigations would hinder each other. The case
was not assigned to a detective by the Oklahoma City Police
Department and Brooks continued working on the investigation.
The facts are disputed as to why Brooks did not follow up
with the police. The United States Secret Service became
involved in the case and met with Brooks on August 4th, when
Brooks shared the details of his investigation with the
agents. Brooks suggested the Secret Service agents should
interview his main suspects or persons of interest,
Defendants Justin Digby and Matthew Wainer. Digby confessed
to stealing the gold shipment to the agents the following
standard for summary judgment is well established. Summary
judgment may only be granted if the evidence of record shows
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial
burden of demonstrating the absence of material fact
requiring judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is material
if it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). If the movant carries this initial burden, the
nonmovant must then set forth specific facts outside the
pleadings and admissible into evidence which would convince a
rational trier of fact to find for the nonmovant.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). All facts and reasonable inferences
therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
Contract of Carriage
argues the contract of carriage requires Plaintiff to file
suit within one year, and Plaintiff failed to do so. It is
undisputed the U.S. Airbill formed the contract between the
shipper and FedEx, incorporating the FedEx Service Guide on
the issue of claim limitations. The Service Guide states the
shipper must file actions “under any cause of action
arising from the transportation of any package” within
one year from the date of delivery or the date the shipment
should have been delivered. (Service Guide, Dkt. No. 26-1, p.
17.) Plaintiff's package should have been delivered on
May 12, 2014, making the claims expire after May 12, 2015.
However, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on April 19, 2016.
argues the suit is not about the lost shipment, but how FedEx
conducted the subsequent investigation regarding the lost
shipment. However, the Court finds the negligence and
conversion claims arose from the transportation (or lack
thereof) of Plaintiff's package. In other words, but for
FedEx transporting the shipment of gold, Plaintiff would not
have a claim for negligent investigation or conversion.
Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims are time-barred and the
claims against FedEx must be dismissed.
the Service Guide's time limitation did not apply, the
state law negligence and conversion claims are preempted by
the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (“ADA”), 49
U.S.C. §§ 1301 et. seq. Plaintiff has asserted an
identical argument previously considered by the Court on
Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. The Court concluded the ADA
did apply to the issues at hand, preempting the claims and
making remand improper. (Order, Dkt. No. 17, pp. 4-6.)
Although Plaintiff again attempts to distinguish FedEx's
act of investigating the whereabouts of the package from the
fact that the package was lost, the actions are one and the
preempts state tort claims “related to a price, route,
or service of an air carrier.” 49 U.S.C. §
41713(b)(4)(A). The Supreme Court has construed the phrase
“related to” as expressing a “broad
pre-emptive purpose” and referring to any state action
“having a connection with or reference to, ” an
airline's rates, routes, or services. See Morales v.
Trans World Airlines, Inc., 504 U.S. 374, 383-84 (1992).
State tort claims are permitted to enforce bargains for
services voluntarily undertaken by the air carrier, but not
to impose additional requirements or recovery beyond the
terms of the contract. See Am. Airlines, Inc. v.
Wolens, 513 U.S. 219, 228-29 (1995).
Brooks testified FedEx's tracking system flags for
investigation any unaccounted-for packages, sometimes even if
the packages are on planes delayed by weather. (Brooks Dep.,
Dkt. No. 26-3, p. 17.) When the investigation to locate
Plaintiff's shipment began, it was a search for a missing
package and investigators later determined the package was
stolen. This leads to the conclusion that the investigation
of missing packages is a direct consequence of the lost
package. The Court finds ...