United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is Plaintiffs' motion to remand. (Doc. # 6.)
Plaintiffs argue that this action should be remanded to state
court because this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
For the reasons below, the motion is due to be denied.
March 2018, Plaintiffs contracted with Defendants Liberty
Bell Moving Group and Direct Van Lines to move
Plaintiffs' belongings from Fairfax, Virginia, to Coffee
County, Alabama. Plaintiffs claim damages of $35, 000 for
property lost and damaged during the move. Plaintiffs
initially filed this action on February 5, 2019, in the
Circuit Court of Coffee County, Alabama.
removed the case to this court on March 13, 2019. (Doc. # 1.)
On April 11, 2019, Plaintiffs moved to remand, claiming that
the removal was improper because Plaintiffs' claim
neither exceeds the $75, 000 required for diversity
jurisdiction nor arises under a federal law. (Doc. # 6.) On
April 26, 2019, Defendants filed a response to the motion to
remand, arguing that “the Carmack Amendment preempts
Plaintiffs' state law claims and provide[s] a proper
basis for removing this matter to federal court.” (Doc.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994);
Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th
Cir. 1994). Accordingly, they only have the power to hear
cases over which the Constitution or Congress has given them
authority. See Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377. Congress
has empowered federal courts to hear cases removed by a
defendant from state to federal court if the plaintiff could
have brought the claims in federal court originally.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Caterpillar, Inc.
v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Federal courts
may exercise diversity jurisdiction over civil actions where
the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and the action is
between citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1). For a claim to arise under federal law, the
allegations in the plaintiffs' complaint must establish
that “federal law creates the cause of action
asserted” or that the plaintiffs' right to relief
necessarily depends upon the resolution of a substantial
question of federal law. Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S.
251, 257 (2013). If “a federal court determines that it
is without subject matter jurisdiction, [it] is powerless to
continue” over a removed case and must remand the
action to state court. Univ. of S. Alabama v. Am. Tobacco
Co., 168 F.3d 405, 410 (11th Cir. 1999); see 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c).
removing defendant bears the burden of establishing that the
federal court has jurisdiction. See Diaz v.
Sheppard, 85 F.3d 1502, 1505 (11th Cir. 1996). And
although the Eleventh Circuit favors remand where federal
jurisdiction is not absolutely clear, see Burns, 31
F.3d at 1095, “federal courts have a strict duty to
exercise the jurisdiction that is conferred upon them by
Congress.” Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co.,
517 U.S. 706, 716 (1996).
state law claim for breach of contract is completely
preempted by the Carmack Amendment. 49 U.S.C. § 14706.
The Carmack Amendment creates a uniform rule for carrier
liability when goods are shipped in interstate commerce.
Smith v. UPS, 296 F.3d 1244, 1246 (11th Cir. 2002)
(citing N.Y., New Haven, & Hartford R.R. Co. v.
Nothnagle, 346 U.S. 128, 131 (1953)). Plaintiffs argue
that there is no federal jurisdiction over this action
because of the “well-pleaded complaint rule, which
provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal
question is present on the face of the plaintiff's
properly pleaded complaint.” (Doc. # 7, at 2.) But
another judge on this court has ruled that the Carmack
Amendment, through the “complete pre-emption doctrine,
” provides federal question jurisdiction over a state
law claim for loss and damage caused by an out-of-state
Defendants failed to deliver some of [the plaintiff's]
household items and . . . of those items that were delivered,
some were damaged, with an ad damnum of more than
$10, 000. These alleged failures by the Defendants in
transporting the household items from [another state] to
Alabama relate to loss or damages to goods arising from the
interstate transportation of those goods by a common carrier.
Because Congress intended the Carmack Amendment to act as the
exclusive cause of action for such claims, [the
plaintiff's] claim is completely preempted by the Carmack
Amendment. Thus, this court has federal-question
jurisdiction, and the case was properly removed to this
Morris v. Mayflower Transit, LLC, 18 F.Supp.3d 1342,
1345 (M.D. Ala. 2014) (cleaned up). Although the Eleventh
Circuit has not applied the Carmack Amendment to the precise
type of claim in this action, Morris thoroughly
analyzes relevant Supreme Court precedent and correctly
applies the analyses of the Fifth and Ninth Circuits. See
id. (citing Hoskins v. Bekins Van Lines, 343
F.3d 769, 771 (5th Cir. 2003); Hall v. N. Am. Van Lines,
Inc., 476 F.3d 683, 688-89 (9th Cir. 2007)). Here, as in
Morris, the amount in controversy exceeds the $10,
000 jurisdictional requirement in Carmack Amendment cases.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1445(b). Therefore, the Carmack
Amendment applies to this action.
reasons above, it is ORDERED that Plaintiffs' motion to
remand (Doc. # 6) is DENIED. It is further ORDERED that
Plaintiffs shall file a response to Defendant Liberty Bell