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Total Quality Logistics, LLC v. Red Chamber Co.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Clermont

June 19, 2017

TOTAL QUALITY LOGISTICS, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RED CHAMBER CO., et al., Defendants-Appellants.

         CIVIL APPEAL FROM CLERMONT COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. 2013-CVH-1841

          Lindhorst & Dreidame, Barry Fagel and Matthew Curran, for plaintiff-appellee.

          David Prince and Miles Prince, for defendant-appellant.

          Durkee and Uhle, Richard Uhle, Jr., for defendant-appellant.

          OPINION

          S. POWELL, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Red Chamber Co. ("RC"), appeals a decision of the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas, granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff-appellee, Total Quality Logistics, LLC ("TQL").

         {¶ 2} In 2008, RC, a seafood distributor began using TQL's services as a freight broker to transport RC's products to its customers. In turn, as a broker, TQL contracted with third-party trucking companies to transport the products across the country. A credit agreement governed this working relationship, and provided:

Applicant understands motor carriers under contract with [TQL] are required to maintain cargo loss and damage liability insurance in the amount of $100, 000.00 per shipment. Please sign below acknowledging that [l]oads valued in excess of $100, 000[.00] will not be tendered without enough prior written notification to TQL to allow TQL and its carriers the opportunity to arrange for increased insurance limits. Failure to provide timely written notice will result in your loads not being insured to the extent the value exceeds $100, 000.00.

         {¶ 3} In April 2013, RC contracted with TQL to arrange the transport of RC's goods from California to Florida. In turn, TQL retained Wells Trucking to transport and deliver RC's goods. During transport, an unknown third-party stole the load of goods valued at $186, 450, which RC never recovered. TQL brought this action against RC claiming it had breached the credit agreement by failing to pay for 13 other brokered shipments between April 2, 2013 and July 5, 2013, and alleged damages of $53, 402, plus interest, collection costs, and attorney fees. RC counterclaimed, asserting the loss of the value of the stolen goods was a result of TQL's breach of contract, negligence, and negligent supervision and hiring. TQL filed a third-party complaint against Wells Trucking alleging negligence and seeking indemnification. Wells Trucking's insurance carrier settled with RC for $100, 000. In so doing, RC agreed to indemnify Wells Trucking for any claims by any other party for damages resulting from the loss.

         {¶ 4} TQL moved for summary judgment on its breach of contract claim and RC's counterclaims. In so doing, TQL argued RC's counterclaims were barred by the doctrine of circular indemnity, preempted by the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. 14706(a), to the ICC Termination Act of 1995, 49 U.S.C. 14501(b), and fail on their merits as a matter of law. With respect to its breach of contract claim, TQL asserted RC's counterclaim was an attempt to offset the damages from RC's nonpayment of the 13 other brokered shipments; therefore, TQL was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of TQL on its claim and RC's counterclaims. The trial court found the ICCTA preempted RC's state law counterclaims. The trial court further found TQL met its burden of demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact regarding its claim, and that RC failed to rebut the evidence presented by TQL; therefore, TQL was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. This appeal followed.

         {¶ 5} Assignment of Error No. 1:

         {¶ 6} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR APPELLEE ON APPELLANT'S COUNTERCLAIM.

         {¶ 7} RC contends the trial court erred by sua sponte granting summary judgment in favor of TQL on grounds not offered in TQL's motion for summary judgment thereby denying RC a meaningful opportunity to respond. Specifically, RC asserts the trial court erred by relying on the ICCTA in granting summary judgment on RC's counterclaims in favor of TQL because, at no point during the pendency of the matter, was that section of the statute presented as a basis for summary judgment.

         {¶ 8} We review a trial court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment de novo. Grizinski v. Am. Express Fin. Advisors, Inc.,187 Ohio App.3d 393, 2010-Ohio-1945, ¶ 14 (12th Dist.). "De novo review means that this court uses the same standard that the trial court should have used, and we examine the evidence to determine whether as a matter of law no genuine issues exist for trial." Morris v. Dobbins Nursing Home, 12th Dist. Clermont No. CA2010-12-102, 2011-Ohio-3014, ¶ 14. Summary judgment is proper if there are no genuine issues of material fact to be litigated, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and reasonable minds can come to only one conclusion, and that conclusion is adverse to the nonmoving party. Civ.R. 56(C); Williams v. McFarland Properties, LLC,177 Ohio App.3d 490, 2008-Ohio-3594, ΒΆ 7 (12th Dist.). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a ...


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