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Logistics Buddy Transportation LLC v. VS Carriers, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

August 19, 2019

LOGISTICS BUDDY TRANSPORTATION, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
VS CARRIERS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          THOMAS L. PARKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Logistics Buddy Transportation, LLC (“Logistics Buddy”) moves for summary judgment against VS Carriers, Inc. (“VS”) on a Carmack Amendment claim of carrier liability for an undelivered shipment of fresh beef. (ECF No. 59 at PageID 271.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to deliver a shipment of fresh meat and that it may end this beef with judgment in its favor. The Court agrees so the Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff's suit originated as a claim by Monogram Food Solutions, LLC (“Monogram”) against broker Re Transportation, Inc. (“ReTrans”) for the invoice value of an undelivered shipment of beef. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 4.) ReTrans sued seeking indemnification from carrier liability from Logistics Buddy for the freight loss. (Id.) Logistics Buddy then cross claimed and impleaded VS as a third-party defendant, because Logistics Buddy subcontracted the delivery of the beef to VS. (ECF No. 59-3 at PageID 290.) ReTrans and Logistics Buddy settled their claims for $116, 381, and ReTrans assigned the rights to the claim for the undelivered beef shipment to Logistics Buddy. (ECF Nos. 45 at PageID 216; 45-4 at PageID 236.) Logistics Buddy amended its complaint against VS for carrier liability under the Carmack Amendment, and, following a period of discovery, now moves for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 45 at PageID 213; 59 at PageID 271.)

         II. Statement of Undisputed Facts

         The Court takes these facts from Logistics Buddy's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (ECF No. 59-2 at PageID 282), VS's Response to Statement of Undisputed Material Facts and Statement of Additional Facts Pursuant to LR 56.1(b)(3) (ECF No. 61 at PageID 395), and Logistics Buddy's Response to Additional Undisputed Material Facts (ECF No. 63 at PageID 448.)

         ReTrans arranged for Logistics Buddy to transport the shipment of fresh beef from Chicago Meat Authority, Inc. (“CMA”) in Chicago, Illinois to Monogram in Martinsville, Virginia. (ECF No. 59-2 at PageID 282.) Monogram was the beneficial owner of the beef shipment. (Id. at 283.) The shipment of fresh beef was perishable--so the transportation company needed to keep it at twenty-eight degrees. (ECF Nos. 59-2 at PageID 283; 45-2 at PageID 224.) And this shipment required expedient delivery. (Id.) CMA ships fresh beef to the Martinsville Monogram facility often, and the typical transit time for a shipment is two days. (ECF Nos. 59-2 at PageID 283; 59-4 at PageID 301.) Logistics Buddy could not transport the beef, so it used its brokerage affiliate to arrange for VS to deliver it. (Id. at PageID 282.)

         The dates are important here. VS driver, Desmond Brown, accepted the shipment from CMA in Chicago on February 10, 2017, with the delivery appointment in Martinsville scheduled for February 13, 2017. (ECF Nos. 59-2 at PageID 283; 59-3 at PageID 290.) CMA maintained the beef at the proper temperature during processing and storage, and when it tendered the shipment to the VS driver, the beef was unadulterated and suitable for human consumption. (ECF Nos. 59-2 at PageID 283; 59-4 at PageID 300.) The VS driver's signature by the seal on the bill of lading reveals that they loaded and sealed the shipment in the driver's presence. (ECF Nos. 45-2 at PageID 244; 59-2 at PageID 283; 59-4 at PageID 300.) And the driver did not make any notes or exceptions on the bill of lading. (Id.)

         Despite the need for expedient delivery, VS did not deliver the shipment on time. (ECF No. 61 at PageID 400.) Logistics Buddy contacted the VS driver to get updates on the shipment and delivery after the driver missed the delivery appointment. (ECF Nos. 60-2 at PageID 385-94; 60-1 at PageID 371-73.) The parties did not resolve the shipment issues and the meat went undelivered until three days after the delivery appointment. (ECF Nos. 59-2 at PageID 284; 59-3 at PageID 288.) That is when Monogram rejected the shipment. (Id.)

         Because of VS's lack of log records and other documentation, the parties could not determine conclusively the progress of the shipment, the precise cause of the delays, the maintenance record of the tractor and trailer used for the shipment, or temperature records from the refrigerated trailer. (ECF No. 59-2 at PageID 284.) HBL Meats did salvage the shipment. (ECF 59-5 at PageID 320.) The only record related to the shipment's salvage is a check from Illinois-based HBL Meats Inc. to Monogram. (ECF No. 61 at PageID 403; 61-3 at PageID 442.) The invoice value of the beef shipment is $126, 026.99. (ECF No. 59-3 at PageID 296.) Logistics Buddy seeks indemnification from VS for the $116, 381 that Logistics Buddy paid to ReTrans, plus costs and fees stemming from this litigation[1]. (Id. at PageID at 177.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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). “A fact is material for purposes of summary judgment if proof of that fact would establish or refute an essential element of the cause of action or defense.” Bruederle v. Louisville Metro Gov't, 687 F.3d 771, 776 (6th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). “The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact.Mosholder v. Barnhardt, 679 F.3d 443, 448 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). “Mere conclusory and unsupported allegations, rooted in speculation, do not meet [the] burden.” Bell v. Ohio State Univ., 351 F.3d 240, 253 (6th Cir. 2003). “Once the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts showing a triable issue of material fact.” Mosholder, 679 F.3d at 448-49 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

         The non-moving party “may not rest upon its mere allegations.” Great West Cas. Co. v. Flandrich, 605 F.Supp.2d 955, 960 (S.D. Ohio 2009). The non-moving party “must produce evidence that results in a conflict of material fact to be resolved by a jury[, ]” and the Court “must afford all reasonable inferences, and construe the evidence, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Cox v. Ky. Dept of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 150 (6th Cir. 1995). Rather, [t]he non-moving party must present ‘significant probative evidence' to show that there is more than ‘some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'” Id. (quoting Moore v. Philip Morris Co., 8 F.3d 335, 339-40 (6th Cir. 1993). “When the non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of his case on which he bears ...


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