BARBARA J. STEWART, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN VAN LINES, ET AL., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
DON D. BUSH, Magistrate Judge.
Now before the Court are Defendants American Van Lines, United States Van Lines, Kentron Phillips and Marsha Smith's Motions to Dismiss and Strike in Response to Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint (Dkt. 92), USAA's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Dkt. 94), and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 96). Having reviewed the motions, the Court finds as follows:
Plaintiff, Barbara Stewart, in her Fourth Amended Complaint has sued American Van Lines, United States Van Lines, Kentron Phillips, Marsha Smith ("the Moving Company Defendants") and United Services Automobile Association (USAA). See Dkt. 89. Stewart contracted with United States Van Lines to move her personal property from Texas to Mississippi. United States Van Lines then subcontracted with American Van Lines to do the move. Stewart claims that American did not pick up all items at her residence. American then moved some of her property to Mississippi with less than 24 hours notice of its arrival. However, when the truck arrived at her home in Mississippi, the driveway and streets were too narrow for the truck to use and American told her that an additional $300.00 was required to transfer the goods to a smaller truck to complete the move.
The parties disagree on what happened next. American stated that it was against company policy to accept a check from Ms. Stewart and she would only pay by check. Ms. Stewart says that American would not take her credit card and would only take cash. The long and short of this story is that American took the goods to Florida where they remain in storage, and United States Van Lines will not release the goods until the storage fee and remaining move fee is paid. Plaintiff has also sued USAA for loss of personal property insured through her policy with USAA.
As to the Moving Company Defendants, Plaintiff alleges violations of 49 U.S.C. § 14706 for value of her personal goods. Plaintiff also claims Smith, American Van Lines and United States Van Lines violated 49 C.F.R. §375 by failing to abide by regulations required of household movers. With respect to Defendant USAA, Plaintiff asserts a breach of contract claim. The Court will address the claims asserted against each set of Defendants separately.
Plaintiff has sued USAA, alleging that her insurance policy with USAA covered the loss of her personal property moved by the Moving Company Defendants but that USAA has declined to cover that loss. USAA has sought to dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court agrees that there is no diversity as to Plaintiff's claims against USAA. Therefore, the only inquiry is whether the Court has supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
The Court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims against the Moving Company Defendants pursuant to the Carmack Amendment and federal question jurisdiction. Therefore, if Plaintiff's claims against USAA are so related to the claims within the Court's original jurisdiction to form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution, then the Court may entertain jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Section 1367(a) clearly grants jurisdiction over claims that do not independently come within the jurisdiction of the district court but form part of the same Article III "case or controversy" as the federal claim. State Nat'l Ins. Co. v. Yates, 391 F.3d 577, 579 (5th Cir. 2004) (citing Jinks v. Richland County, S.C., 538 U.S. 456, 458 (2003)).
To determine whether claims fall under Section 1367(a), a court must ask "whether the supplemental claims are so related to the original claims that they form part of the same case or controversy, or in other words, that they derive from a common nucleus of operative fact.'" Mendoza v. Murphy, 532 F.3d 342, 346 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966)); City of Chicago v. Int'l College of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 118 S.Ct. 523 (1997) ("federal courts' original jurisdiction over federal questions carries with it jurisdiction over state law claims that derive from a common nucleus of operative fact'"); see also WRIGHT & MILLER, 13D FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE§ 3567.1 (explaining that supplemental jurisdiction "embraces at least the Gibbs standard" and "the key to applying Gibbs, and therefore § 1367(a), is giving meaning to the phrase common nucleus of operative fact.'"). A loose factual connection between the claims is generally sufficient. See WRIGHT & MILLER, 13D FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE § 3567.1; Ammerman v. Sween, 54 F.3d 423, 424 (7th Cir. 1995). A court's determination of whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction is guided by considerations of judicial economy, convenience and fairness to litigants. Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350, 108 S.Ct. 614, 619, 98 L.Ed.2d 720 (1988).
The question is thus whether Plaintiff's claims against USAA and the Moving Company Defendants would ordinarily be expected to be tried all in one judicial proceeding. Id. at 349 (quoting United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966)). If so, then supplemental jurisdiction would be appropriate.
The Court finds that the claims against USAA do not form part of the same case or controversy to warrant supplemental jurisdiction. At best, there is only a loose factual connection between the claims. Ultimately, Plaintiff's claims against USAA constitute a coverage dispute reserved for state court and do not lie with Plaintiff's controversy with the Moving Company Defendants as to the shipment of her belongings. USAA's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Dkt. 94) should be GRANTED and the claims against USAA dismissed without prejudice to refiling in a court of competent jurisdiction.
The Moving Company Defendants
The remaining defendants, The Moving Company Defendants, also seek dismissal of the claims against them on several grounds ( see Dkt. 92). As shown below, the Court finds that the motion should be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
First, the Moving Company Defendants seek dismissal of the suit pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3) or transfer of the suit under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1404(a) and 1406(a) for improper venue. The Moving Company Defendants argue that, pursuant to a number of forum-selection clauses in its bill of lading and other contracts related to this case, the matter must be transferred to Florida. See generally Exhibits A-D attached to Affidavit of Aldo Disorbo, Dkt. 92-1. The various contracts first describe United States Van Lines as a shipping agent presumably for the shipper (Stewart) and then as a carrier. According to the affidavit of Disorbo, United States Van Lines acts as agent and broker for American. He says that American's principal place of business is Florida, but in its answer to Plaintiff's ...