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United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
January 21, 1997, Argued ; November 21, 1997, Decided
Nos. 96-2346, 96-2442
[*283] DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judge.
When the elderly and ailing Ruth Slavin decided to move from her home in Florida to the Chicago area, in order to be close to her daughter, she turned to United Van Lines to handle the relocation of her personal belongings. What resulted can only be described as every family's worst nightmare: from its earliest contact with her, through its agent who never made clear to her what kind of coverage she needed for her goods, to its failure to deliver her most priceless family memorabilia and heirlooms and its four-month course of deception pertaining to that nondelivery, United represented everything wrong with a moving company. Eventually, Mrs. Slavin (who has since died and whose estate, through its administrator Mark Gordon, continues as a litigant) and her daughter [*284] Rachelle Gordon (collectively, the Gordons) sued United under a variety of theories. [**3] They prevailed before a jury in their action for liability under the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 11707 (1994), now codified at 49 U.S.C. § 14706, but the district court dismissed the remaining counts of their suit before trial as preempted by the Carmack Amendment.
The principal question before us is whether the district court properly understood the breadth of the Carmack Amendment's preemptive force. We also must decide whether federal common law provides a basis for awarding punitive damages in a Carmack Amendment suit, and whether the district court properly allowed the jury to award damages for some of the items that United had destroyed. We reaffirm our holding in Hughes v. United Van Lines, Inc., 829 F.2d 1407 (7th Cir. 1987), that the Carmack Amendment preempts all state law claims based upon the contract of carriage, in which the harm arises out of the loss of or damage to goods. Nevertheless, in keeping with North American Van Lines, Inc. v. Pinkerton Security Systems, Inc., 89 F.3d 452 (7th Cir. 1996), we also reaffirm that claims involving a separate and independently actionable harm to the shipper distinct from such damage are [**4] not preempted. Because we find that one of the Gordons' claims is not preempted under these two cases, we reverse that part of the case for further proceedings. Otherwise, we find no error in the district court's rulings.
At the time Mrs. Slavin decided to move, she was an 80-year old widow in failing physical health. She was legally blind in one eye, and the vision in her other eye was so impaired that she could no longer read. She also wore a hearing aid, was able to walk only with the aid of a walker, and could not write because of her arthritis. She called a United Van Lines agency in Florida, where she was then living, and it sent one of its agents to her home. There she met twice with the agent, who was aware of her limited sight, impaired hearing, and manual difficulties. She specifically instructed the agent that some of her items were to go to her new apartment in Chicago, and others were to go to her daughter Rachelle's home. She explained that the boxes going to Rachelle's contained the most important things she owned: linens and candlesticks handed down from her own mother, about 200 old and rare books collected by her deceased husband, china cups from around the world [**5] that she had collected over a period of 40 years, and approximately 15,000 family photographs. The photographic collection covered a period of more than 100 years. It included a picture of her mother and her mother's two sisters taken in Europe in the early days of 19th century photography, other photographs dating from the 1860's, immigration photographs from her mother's family, photographs of historic significance including many of her father with such personalities as Clarence Darrow, Adlai Stevenson, Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as countless photographs of more personal interest.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
130 F.3d 282 *; 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 33283 **
MARK L. GORDON, as Administrator of the Estate of RUTH SLAVIN, and RACHELLE GORDON, Plaintiffs-Appellants and Cross-Appellees, v. UNITED VAN LINES, INC., Defendant-Appellee and Cross-Appellant.
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 93 C 7326. James F. Holderman, Judge.
Disposition: AFFIRMED district court's judgment with respect to Counts I, IV, V, VII, and VIII, and REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings on Counts VI. AFFIRMED district court's judgment that punitive damages are not available under the Carmack Amendment, and denied United's cross-appeal regarding a portion of the jury's award.
Carmack Amendment, preempted, photographs, damages, shipper, carrier, punitive damages, distress, boxes, actual loss, fair market value, district court, shipment, federal common law, state law claim, bill of lading, emotional, remedies, Counts, deliver, interstate commerce, cross-appeal, sentimental, Interstate, fanciful, driver
Transportation Law, Carrier Duties & Liabilities, Bills of Lading, Damages, Governments, Courts, Common Law, Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Federal & State Interrelationships, General Overview, Federal Common Law, Remedies, Damages, Punitive Damages, Rail Transportation, Carmack Amendment, Relief From Judgments, Additur & Remittitur, Torts, Business Torts