Appealed from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Feb. 17, 2009)
Oral argument: March 24, 2010
INTERSTATE COMMERCE, SHIPPING, CARMACK AMENDMENT
Respondent, Regal-Beloit, (“Regal”) a manufacturer of electric motors, brought suit against Petitioners, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (“K-line”), and Union Pacific Railroad (“UPRR”), the shippers of the motors. Regal alleges that goods were damaged while they were traveling on a UPRR train that derailed in Oklahoma. K-line and UPRR sought and were granted dismissal at the trial level, pursuant to a forum selection clause in the bill of lading between the parties. Regal claims that the bill of lading clause should not apply because the Carmack Amendment governs this transaction, while Petitioners claim that it does not and urge that their contract be upheld. The Ninth Circuit held that the Carmack Amendment applied and reversed the lower court. This case highlights a conflict between the forum selection clause in the bill of lading and the Carmack Amendment, which preempts state and common law claims and provides that it be the exclusive remedy for interstate shipping, and also narrowly restricts the venues in which disputes may be heard. The court must decide whether the Carmack Amendment will apply in this case, where the shipping involved not only domestic rail travel from California to Midwest destinations, but also included an international carriage by sea from China to California. The Court’s decision in this case will impact manufacturers and shippers across all industries. Petitioners additionally charge that a decision for Regal may upset the settled expectations of the international shipping industry, while Regal contends that a decision for Petitioners denying the Carmack Amendment’s applicability could potentially lead to litigation chaos.