Brian Del Gatto, partner at Wilson Elser, obtained dismissal of a suit claiming more than $3 million in damages for theft of a shipment of cell phones in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida based on federal preemption of state law claims under the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), and on the plaintiff's failure to sufficiently plead a breach of contract claim.
The decision is particularly significant in that it expands case law on FAAAA preemption to apply claims against non-brokers and non–motor carriers to any party that is involved in the arrangement for transportation of cargo, such as shippers. The client had a contract with the shipper to provide warehousing services and occasionally arrange for outbound transportation of its customer’s goods. The client hired a freight broker to arrange the shipment with a motor carrier, and the broker hired a motor carrier to transport it. That motor carrier hired another motor carrier. The shipment was stolen while in the possession of the second motor carrier. On motion, Brian argued that the FAAAA's explicit preemption applies to the negligence claim against the client, even though the client was not a broker or a motor carrier, because such claims would seek to indirectly regulate the prices, routes and services of brokers and motor carriers. The court granted the motion, finding that the negligence claim by the plaintiff seeks to indirectly regulate the prices, routes and services of motor carriers and brokers, and is therefore preempted under FAAAA. In dismissing the breach of contract claim as well, the court determined that the plaintiff cannot merely argue that just because the cargo was stolen, the client must have breached the contract. The court further held that the dismissal was with prejudice and that the plaintiff could not seek to amend the complaint.
Brian was assisted by Beata Shapiro, partner at Wilson Elser, and Anne Kim, an associate with Wilson Elser.