Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Ninth Circuit Says No To FAAAA Preemption

Seal of the United States Courts, Ninth Judicial Circuit.svgCostco needed some goods shipped.  Costco turned to transportation broker C.H. Robinson to find a trucking company that could haul the load.  Kuwar Singh, dba RT Service was one of the motor carriers in C.H. Robinson’s network.  

Mr. Singh and RT Service were properly licensed.  RT was a properly authorized motor carrier with an active motor carrier registration at the time of the accident.  

On a cold and snowy December day in 2016, driver Ronel Singh was carrying Costco’s goods.  He lost control of his truck on the I-80.  The truck rolled over.  Allen Miller was also travelling the I-80 that day.  He was unable to avoid striking the rolled over truck.  Miller suffered serious injuries.

Miller sued C.H. Robinson alleging that it negligently recommended RT Service and Singh to Costo.  Plaintiff argued that discovery had shown that 

there were red flags about [them]. Including that [RT Services] have a history of safety violations; over 40% of [its] trucks have been deemed illegal to be on the road when stopped for random inspections; [it has] been cited numerous [*4]  times for hours of service violations and false log books; and their percentage of out of service violations is twice that of the national average.

Miller v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., No. 3:17-cv-00408-MMD-WGC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 194453, at *3-4 (D. Nev. Nov. 14, 2018)

The Broker argued that the negligence claim, brought under state law, was preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA).  The relevant portion of the FAAAA says:

    (1) General Rule. Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3), a [s]tate . . . may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier … or any private motor carrier, broker or freight forwarder with respect to the transportation of property.

49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1).  State common law is considered one of those “other provisions having the force and effect of law”  ASARCO LLC v. England Logistics Inc., 71 F. Supp. 3d 990, 1004 (D. Ariz. Dec. 23, 2014).  

The trial court determined that the Plaintiff’s negligence claim set out to reshape the level of service a broker must provide in selecting a motor carrier to transport property.  Thus the claim did directly impact the amount that a broker would charge for services.  The trial court also said that the claim did not fall within the exception provided for in 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(2)(A).  That provision states:

Paragraph (1)—

(A) shall not restrict the safety regulatory authority of a State with respect to motor vehicles, the authority of a State to impose highway route controls or limitations based on the size or weight of the motor vehicle or the hazardous nature of the cargo, or the authority of a State to regulate motor carriers with regard to minimum amounts of financial responsibility relating to insurance requirements and self-insurance authorization

Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s decision that the federal law preempted the state common law of negligence.  The matter went before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Miller v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 976 F.3d 1016 (9th Cir. 2020).  

The appellate court agreed with the trial court stating that the FAAAA was implicated.  However, the Ninth Circuit said that the Plaintiff’s suit fell into the exception language of § 14501(c)(2)(A).  

A writ to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide this issue was rejected.  C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. v. Miller, 142 S. Ct. 2866 (2022).

Other courts have reached opinions opposite of the Ninth Circuit. McCarter v. Ziyar Express, Inc., No. 3:21 CV 2390, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4552 (N.D. Ohio Jan. 10, 2023) Lee v. Werner Enters., Inc., No. 3:22 CV 91, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 200848 (N.D. Ohio Nov. 3, 2022)  Volkova v. C.H. Robinson Co., No. 16 C 1883, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19877 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 7, 2018).  

If you have questions about Nevada Trucking, Coverage or Insurance Law, please contact Mike Mills at 702.240.6060×114 or email him at