The Carmack Amendment, codified at 49 USC §14706, et seq., imposes a federal liability regime for claims concerning goods damaged or lost during transportation in interstate commerce. In the U.S. Fifth Circuit, it has long been held to preempt state and common law remedies against a carrier, notwithstanding more recent state court opinions. In Heniff Transportation Systems, LLC v. Trimac Transportation Services, Inc., the U.S. Fifth Circuit reaffirmed the preemptive scope of the Carmack Amendment.
Heniff Transportation Systems was to transport chemicals from Texas to Illinois. It hired Trimac Transportation Services to clean its tanker prior to the trip. The cleaning was not done correctly, and the chemicals were contaminated, as were additional chemicals when mixed with the contaminated batch at the terminus. Heniff settled with the receiver for damage caused by the contaminated shipment and then sued Trimac, asserting several state law claims and a federal claim for liability apportionment under the Carmack Amendment. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Trimac on the grounds that Heniff’s state law claims were preempted.
On appeal, the U.S. Fifth Circuit held that the service provided by Trimac, cleaning Heniff’s tanker-trailer so that it could be used to transport chemicals from Texas to Illinois, was a service related to the movement of passengers or property in interstate commerce, which, in turn, made Trimac a carrier subject to the Carmack Amendment. The district court’s ruling was therefore affirmed.
Heniff Transportation Systems, LLC v. Trimac Transportation Services, Inc.
Eric W. Sella