With the surge of nationwide moves during CoVid, despicable Department of Transportation (“DOT”) licensed movers are holding homeowners’ property hostage for cash ransom above the contract price.
Here’s how to beat them.
Homeowners often are afraid to fight nasty movers who leave threatening messages to auction off the property if they aren’t paid the cash, so they pay the ransom for their household goods. However, their property is returned damaged and valuable items such as flat screen TVs are stolen by the movers.
My client refused to be victimized by his movers, so I filed the case of Spinner v New Era et al, Eastern District of NY #20-CV-6288. See the latest 2-28-21_Amended Complaint Spinner v New Era Gold Standard.
Then I obtained a federal injunction ordering the return of his goods, without paying thousands in cash ransom demanded by interstate movers Gold Standard Relocation and New Era Relocation, LLC. Click to read the 1-14-21Order-TRO-GoldStd-NewEra
The federal law I used to protect my client is the Carmack Amendment. It governs the liability of common carriers for loss or damage to goods shipped or transported in interstate commerce. 49 U.S.C. §14706(a)(1); Project Hope v. M/V IBN SINA, 250 F.3d 67, 73 n.6 (2d Cir. 2001). “Suits under the Carmack Amendment may be brought against a carrier by any person entitled to recover in the carrier’s ‘bill of lading,’ including the buyer who was to receive the goods.” Windows, Inc. v. Jordan Panel Sys. Corp., 177 F.3d 114, 118 (2d Cir. 1999).
The Carmack Amendment “imposes something akin to strict liability on shippers.” Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Evergreen Marine Corp., 621 F. 3d 215, 216 (2d Cir. 2010).
I argued that my client was the shipper named on the contract, so he was the appropriate plaintiff. Also, he satisfied a likelihood of success win his case because Defendant New Era is the common carrier on the Contract and Gold Star is its wholly owned subsidiary and listed as the logistics manager on the moving Contract. Therefore, both parties were properly named for liability under the Carmack Amendment.
As a strict liability federal law, it is indisputable under Carmack that movers, and sometimes even their purported brokers as in my client’s case, are liable for the loss and damage to household goods they transport.
Interestingly, it appears the DOT easily gives out licenses to companies claiming to be interstate movers, and the DOT actually has a hostage unit that investigates these very ransom situations after the marauding movers are licensed. The DOT needs to end that catch 22 and better investigate moving company applications before handing out licenses.
So, despite the DOT licensing pitfalls, if you’re threatened by your moving company or they refuse to turn over your property, then:
(1) file a Hostage Complaint with the DOT at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move/file-a-complaint , and
(2) file a civil complaint, possibly in small claims court or federal court, under the Carmack Amendment and request an injunction to stop the threats and ask for damages, such as the cost of your damaged property, the cost of any lost or stolen property and the return of any downpayment you made to the movers.
This is solely a brief article on a subject, not legal advice, and you should consult with an attorney.