United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia
CLINTON EUGENE GILLEY, as Administrator of the Estate of CARL DAVID GILLEY, Nicole Leigh Lee, As Administrator of the Estate of CHRISTINE TARA WARDEN GILLEY, and Clinton Eugene Gilley and Nicole Leigh Lee as Co-Administrators of the Estates Of J.G. and G.G., minor children. Plaintiffs,
C.H. ROBINSON WORLDWIDE, INC., J&TS TRANSPORT EXPRESS, INC., and BERTRAM COPELAND Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. FABER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is the defendant, C.H. Robinson Worldwide,
Inc.'s (hereinafter “CHR”) Motion to Dismiss.
ECF No. 13. Specifically, CHR moves to dismiss
plaintiffs' claims against it because CHR contends that
the claims are preempted by the Federal Aviation
Administration Authorization Act of 1994 and otherwise fail
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
reasons that follow, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.'s
motion (ECF No. 13) is DENIED.
case arises out of a motor vehicle wreck in which a
tractor-trailer driven by defendant Bertram Copeland collided
into a vehicle driven by Christine Gilley, resulting in the
death of Christine Gilley, and her family, Carl David Gilley,
J.G., and G.G. See ECF NO. 1.
to the incident, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc.(hereinafter
“CHR”) engaged J&TS Transport Express,
Inc.(hereinafter “J&TS”) to
transport goods from Bay Valley Foods, LLC in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania to Aldi, Inc. in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Id. J&TS hired Copeland to transport the
shipment via a tractor-trailer, which was leased to J&TS.
Id. On April 13, 2017, Copeland picked up a load for
transport. Id. Plaintiffs' allege that the
brakes on the tractor-trailer were not properly maintained.
Id. While traveling on I-77 in Mercer County, West
Virginia, Copeland allegedly “burned up” the
brakes on the tractor-trailer, failed to maintain control of
the tractor-trailer, crossed over the median into oncoming
traffic, and collided with the Gilley family's vehicle.
assert wrongful death claims against CHR for negligently
selecting J&TS to transport the CHR Load and vicarious
liability for the alleged negligence of defendants J&TS
and Copeland. ECF No. 1. Defendant CHR has moved to dismiss
plaintiffs' claims against it. ECF Nos. 13, 14. First,
CHR argues that the Federal Aviation Administration
Authorization Act of 1994 (hereinafter “FAAAA”)
preempts plaintiffs' negligent selection claim. See
id. at p. 2. CHR contends that the FAAAA preempts state
laws, including common law tort claims, that have any
relation to or connection with a broker's prices, routes
or services. Id. CHR argues that the plaintiffs'
claim goes to the heart of CHR's services and would have
a significant economic impact on those services, and thus are
preempted by the FAAAA. Id. Second, CHR argues that
the court should dismiss the plaintiffs' common law claim
of vicarious liability because J&TS was an independent
contractor, and CHR had no relationship, contractual or
otherwise, with J&TS driver, Copeland. Id.
Count V against CHR, the plaintiffs allege that CHR
negligently selected J&TS to carry the load;
specifically, because J&TS was a “new
entrant” that had been operating for a month and had
not yet been rated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration, when selected by CHR. ECF Nos. 1, 33. Because
the plaintiffs' specific complaint is pertinent to the
motion to dismiss analysis, the complaint is as follows:
At all relevant times, Defendant CH Robinson owed the Gilley
family, and the public at large, a duty to exercise ordinary
care and act reasonably in arranging transportation on public
roadways, in investigating the fitness of J&TS prior to
hiring the company to carry the Load on public highways and
not to hire or retain a trucking company that CH Robinson
knew or should have known posed a risk of harm to others and
which was otherwise not competent or fit to operate CMVs on
J&TS was a brand new, inexperienced and incompetent truck
company that hired an incompetent driver, Defendant Copeland.
J&TS inexperience and incompetence, and hiring and
retention of an incompetent and unfit driver, were direct and
proximate causes of this fatal collision.
Defendant CH Robinson, a sophisticated transportation
services provider that is regularly engaged in the business
of shipping, knew or should have known that J&TS was a
new entrant, that J&TS did not have a
“satisfactory” safety rating, that J&TS was
an unrated motor carrier and as such, the reasonably safe
course of action for CH Robinson would have been to conduct
further investigation and otherwise exercise due caution with
respect to J&TS, which was unfit to operate safely and
provide competent transportation.
Defendant CH Robinson negligently and recklessly breached
each of these duties, which it owed to the motoring public,
including the Gilley family, by failing to exercise due care
in arranging the transportation for the Load, by hiring
and/or retaining J&TS when CH Robinson either knew or
should have known that J&TS posed a risk of harm to
others and was otherwise incompetent and unfit to perform the
duties of an interstate motor carrier, or intentionally chose
not to know.
As a foreseeable and proximate result of Defendant CH
Robinson's negligent and reckless or intentional actions
and omissions, in breach of its duties, the Gilley family
and/or their heirs and survivors suffered and/ or will
continue to suffer damages for which their estates and
survivors are entitled to recover, as set forth above.
Defendant CH Robinson's [sic] acted willfully, wantonly
and recklessly-a willful blindness to the well-known dangers
with respect to inexperienced new entrant and unrated
trucking companies-and their actions and omission demonstrate
a conscious disregard for the safety of others.
Defendant CH Robinson is liable for the above-described
actions and omissions, the damages proximately caused, and