United States District Court, Eastern District of New York
March 1, 2000
OLD DOMINION FREIGHT LINE, PLAINTIFF,
ALLOU DISTRIBUTORS, INC., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pohorelsky, United States Magistrate Judge.
OPINION AND ORDER
The defendant Allou Distributors, Inc. ("Allou") moves to
dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
over this interstate transportation action. This motion is
before the undersigned on consent of the parties.
28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). For the reasons stated below, the defendant's motion
to dismiss the complaint is denied.
The plaintiff Old Dominion Freight Lines, Inc. ("Old
Dominion") commenced this action against the defendant Allou to
collect unpaid freight charges for transportation services the
plaintiff provided to the defendant. Old Dominion claims that it
has been damaged in the sum of $63,773.24, which represents the
amount that is due and owing for transportation services
provided pursuant to an agreement with Allou. The transportation
services consist of approximately 138 deliveries and
accompanying bills of lading for amounts ranging from $15.42 to
$3264.20. See Rosen Aff., Ex. A. The plaintiff has stipulated
that the freight charges for each individual bill of lading does
not exceed $10,000. See Abilheira Aff., ¶ 3.
Because none of the bills of lading individually exceed
$10,000, the defendant Allou contends that the plaintiff has not
met the amount in controversy requirement of
28 U.S.C. § 1337(a). That section provides
The district courts shall have original jurisdiction
of any civil action or proceeding arising under any
Act of Congress regulating commerce or protecting
trade and commerce against restraints and monopolies:
Provided, however, That the district courts shall
have original jurisdiction of an action brought under
section 11706 or 14706 of title 49, only if the
matter in controversy for each receipt or bill of
lading exceeds $10,000, exclusive of interest and
28 U.S.C. § 1337(a). The plaintiff Old Dominion asserts that the
$10,000 amount in controversy requirement contained in § 1337(a)
does not apply to the present action because this is an
interstate carrier claim brought by the plaintiff for unpaid
freight, and not a claim brought for damage to a shipper's goods
pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 11706 or § 14706. Old Dominion contends
that the minimum controversy requirement applies only to actions
commenced pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 11706 or § 14706 by a shipper
against a carrier for damage to its goods.
In deciding a motion to dismiss, "[t]he court must limit
itself to the undisputed facts in the pleadings, `documents
attached to the complaint as exhibits, and documents
incorporated by reference in the complaint.'" Hayden v. County
of Nassau, 180 F.3d 42, 54 (2d Cir. 1999) (citing Kramer v.
Time Warner Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 773 (2d Cir. 1991)); see
Cooper v. Parsky, 140 F.3d 433, 440 (2d Cir. 1998). The court
"must view the pleadings in the light most favorable to, and
draw all reasonable inferences in favor of, the nonmoving
party," Davidson v. Flynn, 32 F.3d 27, 29 (2d Cir. 1994), and
"is required to accept as true all factual allegations in the
complaint." Cooper, 140 F.3d at 440 (citing Bernheim v.
Litt, 79 F.3d 318, 321 (2d Cir. 1996)). "The task of the court
in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion `is merely to assess the
legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of
the evidence which might be offered in support thereof.'"
Cooper, 140 F.3d at 440 (quoting Ryder Energy Distribution
Corp. v. Merrill Lynch Commodities Inc., 748 F.2d 774, 779 (2d
Although bald assertions and conclusions of law are
insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss, the pleading
standard is nonetheless a liberal one. See Leeds v. Meltz,
85 F.3d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1996). "A plaintiff . . . need only allege,
not prove, sufficient facts to survive a motion to dismiss."
Koppel v. 4987 Corp., 167 F.3d 125, 133 (2d Cir. 1999). A
Rule 12(b) motion will not be granted "unless it appears beyond doubt
that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his
claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957).
Turning to the case at bar, the court finds the cases cited by
the plaintiff to be controlling in this matter. In Thurston
Motor Lines v. Jordan K. Rand, 460 U.S. 533, 103 S.Ct. 1343, 75
L.Ed.2d 260 (1983), a common carrier filed suit in district
court to recover $661.41 in motor freight charges. The complaint
alleged failure to pay transport services as required by tariffs
on file with the Interstate Commerce Commission, and federal
jurisdiction under 49 U.S.C. § 10741(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 1337. In
reversing the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court held that the
district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the suit.
The Court reinterated its position that "The Interstate Commerce
Act requires carrier to collect and consignee to pay all lawful
charges duly prescribed by the tariff in respect of every
shipment. Their duty and obligation grow out of and depend upon
that act." 460 U.S. 533, 534, 103 S.Ct. 1343, 75 L.Ed.2d 260
(1983) (citing Louisville & Nashville R. v. Rice,
247 U.S. 201,
38 S.Ct. 429, 62 L.Ed. 1071 (1918)).
In United Van Lines v. Hellman, 949 F. Supp. 126 (E.D.N.Y.
1996), another suit commenced by a carrier against a shipper to
recover freight charges, the district court held that it had
jurisdiction to hear the case, and denied the defendant's motion
to dismiss for want of subject matter jurisdiction. The court
stated that "28 U.S.C. § 1337(a) confers jurisdiction to the
federal district courts of all actions arising under federal law
regulating interstate commerce, including interstate carrier
claims for freight charges." 949 F. Supp. 126, 127 (citing
Thurston Motor Lines).
The court finds the defendant's reliance on cases cited in its
motion papers to be misplaced. The defendant cites Hunter v.
United Van Lines, 746 F.2d 635 (9th Cir. 1984), and Pillsbury
Co. v. Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Co., 548 F. Supp. 28
(Kan. 1982) for the proposition that the $10,000 amount in
controversy requirement applies in this case where admittedly,
none of the bills of lading individually exceed $10,000.
However, both those decisions dealt with actions brought under
49 U.S.C. § 11707 by a shipper seeking damages for injuries to
its goods caused by a common carrier. The defendant has not
cited, nor has the court found, any case which holds that the
$10,000 amount in controversy limitation of section 1337(a)
extends to actions other than those brought pursuant to
49 U.S.C. § 11707 or § 14706. Nowhere in the complaint does the
plaintiff plead that the action is brought pursuant to these
sections, nor does the court find that the plaintiffs claim for
freight charges falls under these sections.
In Kansas City Terminal Ry. Co. v. Jordon Manufacturing Co.,
750 F.2d 551 (7th Cir. 1984), an action brought by a carrier
against a shipper to recover freight charges, the Seventh
Circuit found that the $10,000 amount in controversy requirement
was not applicable to an action to recover freight charges.
Determining that there was jurisdiction, the court explained,
[a] suit for unpaid freight charges, however, is not
a suit under section 11707 of the Interstate Commerce
Act, and so is not within the scope of the proviso.
Section 11707 makes railroads (and other carriers
regulated by the Act) liable to shippers for losing
or damaging their shipments; it does not make
shippers liable to railroads for not paying freight
charges. The statutory language could not be clearer;
nor the legislative history of the 1978 amendments to
section 1337(a), which reveals that Congress wanted
to impose the $10,000 minimum in lost-freight and
damaged-freight cases — cases brought, of course, by
shippers, not railroads — in order to avert a flood
of such cases that was inundating several federal
750 F.2d 551, 552 (7th Cir. 1984) (citations omitted).
Here, the plaintiff pleads in its complaint that the action is
brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1337(a) for freight charges
allegedly owing for interstate transportation services provided
by the plaintiff. Because the court finds that this action, as
pleaded by Old Dominion in its complaint, is not subject to the
$10,000 amount in controversy limitation under § 1337, the
defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint is DENIED.
In view of the above ruling, the order staying the arbitration
hearing is hereby lifted and the arbitration clerk is directed
to schedule a new hearing date.
© 1992-2003 VersusLaw Inc.