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Bits & Pieces

Inigo v Express Movers, Inc

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2020 WL 6802309

United States District Court, S.D. California.
Fernando Inigo, Plaintiff,
v.
Express Movers, Inc., a Hawaii Corporation, d/b/a Movers Hawaii, Defendant.
Case No.: 3:18-cv-2844-BEN-DEB
|
Filed 11/18/2020

ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO PROVE DAMAGES
HON. ROGER T. BENITEZ United States District Judge
*1 On August 24, 2020, the Court entered default judgment against Defendant Express Movers, Inc (“Express Movers”). ECF No. 37. This matter now comes before the Court on Plaintiff Fernando Inigo’s Motion to Prove Damages.

I. Background
Inigo filed a Complaint against Express Movers on December 17, 2018. ECF No. 1. He initially sought $39,827.00 in damages, representing the value of household goods and a vehicle he alleged were being unlawfully withheld by Express Movers as the result of a dispute over shipping costs. Id. at 9. On April 22, 2020, Express Movers relinquished possession of Inigo’s household goods. Mot., ECF No. 42, 7.

On June 24, 2020, the Court granted Mr. Elliot Canter’s motion to withdraw as counsel for Express Movers. ECF No. 33. As Local Civil Rule 83.3(j) requires corporations to be represented by counsel, the Court granted Express Movers thirty days to obtain new counsel and for that counsel to file a notice of appearance. Id. The Court also delayed the Final Pretrial Conference until August 3, 2020. Id.

Express Movers failed to appear at the Final Pretrial Conference and no new counsel filed a notice of appearance on its behalf. ECF No. 35. The Court issued an Order to Show Cause, requiring Express Movers to obtain new counsel and warning it that failure to do so could result in sanctions, including striking Express Movers’ Answer and entering default judgment against it. ECF No. 36. Express Movers again failed to respond. Accordingly, the Court entered default judgment on August 24, 2020, and granted Inigo leave to file a Motion to Prove Damages. Id. Inigo filed his motion, and Express Movers has not responded.1

Inigo seeks damages pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 14706 for Express Movers’ alleged failure to transport his household goods with “reasonable dispatch.” Mot., ECF No. 41, 3. He no longer seeks damages for the total value of his household goods, but rather damages for a select few items he purchased while his household goods were being withheld by Express Movers. Id. at 2-3. He also alleges one large box of kitchen items was lost, entitling him to further damages. Id. at 3.

II. Legal Standard
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(3), a plaintiff’s demand for relief must be specific, and he “must ‘prove up’ the amount of damages.” Philip Morris USA Inc. v. Banh, Case No. 03-CV-4043-GAF-PJW, 2005 WL 5758392, at *6 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 14, 2005). “The general rule of law is that upon default the factual allegations of the complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages, will be taken as true.” TeleVideo Sys., Inc. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987) (citations omitted). Relief following a motion for entry of default judgment is limited to that identified in the complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(c) (“A default judgment must not differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in the pleadings.”); see also PepsiCo, Inc. v. Cal. Sec. Cans, 238 F. Supp. 2d 1172, 1174 (C.D. Cal. 2002) (stating that a default judgment “shall not be different in kind from or exceed in amount that prayed for in the [complaint]”).

III. Analysis
*2 Inigo seeks an award of $2,107.20 for the failure to transport household goods with reasonable dispatch and $300.00 for damages incurred as the result of a lost large box of kitchen items. Mot., ECF No. 41, 3. As a preliminary matter, the Court finds these damages are not different in kind from and do not exceed the amount of what was demanded in Inigo’s Complaint. Instead, Inigo’s motion reasonably reduces the damages sought based on Express Movers’ decision to release his household goods.

In support of his claimed damages, Inigo attached a declaration to his motion stating that Express Movers refused to deliver his household goods to him as contracted because a dispute arose over the amount due to Express Movers. Decl, ECF No. 41-1, ¶¶ 3-5. Inigo alleged that Express Movers refused to relinquish possession of his household goods for over nine months, and that Inigo was required to purchase a new washing machine, washer hose, queen mattress, box spring, and television for his home. Id. at ¶ 10. The total cost of these items was $2,107.20, evidenced by receipts attached to Inigo’s declaration. Id. at ¶ 10, Ex. C. Inigo further alleges one large box of kitchen items was not included in the items eventually released by Express Movers. Id. at ¶ 13. He estimates those kitchen items are valued at $300.00.

The Carmack Amendment states that a carrier providing transportation of goods is liable “for the actual loss or injury to the property” caused by that carrier. 49 U.S.C. § 14706(a)(1). The carrier’s failure to issue a bill of lading does not affect its liability. Id. While the statute does not explicitly provide for recovery of “reasonably foreseeable damages,” other courts have consistently recognized that a carrier may be liable for all “reasonably foreseeable consequential damages resulting from a breach of the contract of carriage.” Ready Transp., Inc. v. CRST Malone, Inc., No. 07-CV-0905-JTL, 2009 WL 10669257, at *12 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2009) (citing Air Prods. & Chems., Inc. v. Illinois Central Gulf R. Co., 721 F.2d 483, 485 (5th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 832 (1984)). The Supreme Court has likewise stated that “[t]he words of the [Carmack Amendment] ‘are comprehensive enough to embrace all damages resulting from any failure to discharge a carrier’s duty with respect to any part of the transportation to the agreed destination.’ ” Southeastern Express Co. v. Pastime Amusement Co., 299 U.S. 28, 29 (1936) (quoting New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk R.R. Co. v. Peninsula Produce Exch. of Maryland, 240 U.S. 34, 38 (1916)).

Here, Inigo has pleaded that Express Movers refused to relinquish possession of his household goods despite Inigo’s offer to pay 110% of the estimated costs. See 49 C.F.R. § 375.407 (requiring a carrier to relinquish possession of household goods if the individual shipper pays 110% of the non-binding estimate on a collect-on-delivery shipment). Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 29, Following Inigo’s offer, Express Movers continued to withhold delivery of Inigo’s household goods for more than nine months. As noted above, the Court accepts these well pleaded allegations as true. See TeleVideo Sys., Inc., 826 F.2d at 917-18.

Applying those pleadings to Inigo’s claimed damages, the Court finds that the damages sought for purchase of a replacement television, queen mattress, and box spring would be reasonably foreseeable and are thus recoverable. A shipper like Inigo quite reasonably believes that, once the needed time for transit has passed, he will be able to rest on a bed. Today, he could also expect a common comfort like a television. While the Court would also conclude Inigo has a need for a washing machine, Inigo’s inventory did not show he shipped a washing machine. Compl., ECF No. 1, Ex. B. Accordingly, the Court finds Express Movers could not reasonably have anticipated Inigo would buy a replacement washing machine and washer hose. Inigo has sufficiently proved his remaining damages with respect to the lost large box of kitchen items.

*3 The Court finds that Inigo has therefore sufficiently proved damages in the amount of $1,838.97, representing Inigo’s claimed damages less the $538.23 he incurred for a new washing machine and washer hose.

IV. Conclusion
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s Motion to Prove Damages is GRANTED in part. The Clerk of Court shall enter judgment in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $1,838.97 in total damages. Plaintiff is granted leave to file a Motion for Attorney’s Fees in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54 and 49 U.S.C. § 14708. A request for Costs may be submitted to the Clerk of Court.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

All Citations
Slip Copy, 2020 WL 6802309

Footnotes

1
Igor Stojadinovic, purportedly a representative of Express Movers, sent a letter to the Court dated October 5, 2020, requesting a delay in the hearing on this motion. ECF No. 45. Mr. Stojadinovic stated he could not travel due to COVID-19 concerns. Id. The Court vacated the hearing on this motion and the matter was submitted in accordance with Local Civil Rule 7.1(d)(1). Accordingly, the request is denied as moot. The Court also rejects the letter because it was submitted on behalf of a corporate defendant by a non-attorney. See Civ. L. R. 83.3(j).

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