Cargo loss and damage claims against common or contract carriers for damages to interstate shipments have long been governed by the Carmack Amendment. Further, courts have routinely held the Carmack Amendment preempts state law claims for negligence, breach of contract and tort claims. In other words, since federal law provides the exclusive remedy for cargo loss or damage on an interstate shipment, the claimant can not assert state law claims.
Earlier this month, a Texas federal court followed this long line of authority and held the Carmack Amendment preempts state law claims – even when those state law claims are for the intentional tort of conversion. See Tran Enterprises LLC d/b/a Nutrition Depot v. DHL Express (USA), Inc., 2010 LEXIS 2092, at *2 (S.D. Tex. January 12, 2010). In this case, the plaintiff alleged DHL converted COD checks it collected at the time of delivery, failed to tender these checks to it, and was liable for conversion under state law. The court held intentional tort claims under state law, like the plaintiff's conversion claim, are preempted and Carmack remains the shipper's exclusive remedy.