Supreme Court asks U.S. government to weigh in on C.H. Robinson case
October 5, 2021
The U.S. Supreme Court is inviting the acting solicitor general to file a brief in C.H. Robinson’s petition for the high court to settle a case dealing with a broker’s eligibility for federal law preemption over state negligence claims.
On Monday, Oct. 4, the U.S. Supreme Court responded to C.H. Robinson’s petition by inviting Acting Solicitor General Brian H. Fletcher to submit a brief. The Office of the Solicitor General represents the U.S. government in Supreme Court cases, including amicus briefs to the court. Essentially, the high court is asking the federal government what position it holds in this case, and whether in the solicitor’s opinion if the case should be heard.
At the heart of the case before the Supreme Court is whether or not federal law overrides state law when it comes to negligence claims against a broker.
Specifically, C.H. Robinson is arguing that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (F4A) preempts common law negligence claims against a broker “because it does not constitute an exercise of the ‘safety regulatory authority of a state with respect to motor vehicles’ within the meaning of the (F4A’s) safety exception.”
The original lawsuit filed by Allen Miller claimed C.H. Robinson is liable for a truck contracted by the broker crashing into him, which caused him to become a quadriplegic. A district court dismissed the case, finding that F4A preempts Miller’s negligence claim.
Federal law 49 U.S. Code § 14501 preempts a state “law, regulation or other provision” that is “related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier … or broker.” However, there is a safety exception that “shall not restrict the safety regulatory authority of a state with respect to motor vehicles.”
In September 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that Miller’s claim was “related to” C.H. Robinson’s broker services. However, the panel ruled that the district court erred in finding that the safety exception did not apply. After denied an en banc (full court) hearing, C.H. Robinson petitioned to the Supreme Court in April. As of publication, the Office of Solicitor General has not responded the Supreme Court’s request. LL