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Jenkins v. Immedia, INC.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 16, 2019

FRANKLYN A. JENKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
IMMEDIA, INC., a Minnesota corporation. Defendant.

          ORDER REGARDING SAVAGE RULE

          CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Franklyn Jenkins's Trial Brief (Doc. # 389), Defendant Immedia Inc.'s Brief Re: Savage Rule (Doc. # 397), and Immedia's Trial Brief (Doc # 399.) Throughout the course of this litigation, the parties have expended substantial resources, time, and effort addressing the issue of whether and how the Savage rule applies to this case. Both parties agree that Minnesota law governs Plaintiff's claims against Immedia. For the reasons set forth below, the Court holds that the Savage rule does not apply to Plaintiff's claims against Immedia.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court incorporates herein the factual and procedural background of this dispute, as described in detail in this Court's Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. # 268) and the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation (Doc. # 359), which were incorporated in the Court's May 31, 2019 Order Affirming and Adopting the April 25, 2019 Recommendation (Doc. # 378).

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         A. THE SAVAGE RULE

         In United States v. Savage Truck Line, Inc., 209 F.2d 442 (4th Cir. 1953), the Fourth Circuit held that a carrier, who had actual knowledge of the unsafe condition of the cargo, was the party with the last clear chance to avoid damage to the shipped cargo and, as such, was the principal offender and obligated to pay for the damage to the goods. Id. at 447. It is of import that the Savage court tethered its liability determination to doctrines of indemnity, absolute liability, principal or contributory fault, and last clear chance.[1] It is also of import that the Savage court's decision was issued in the context of which party was liable for damage to the transported goods:[2]

The decision of the questions raised by these appeals as to the respective liabilities of the United States [the shipper] and of Savage [the carrier] for damages occasioned by each to the property of the other turns on the rights and liabilities inherent in the carrier-shipper relationship between them in the interstate transaction upon which they were engaged.
***
Sometimes the principal fault is attributable to the party who performed the last act which resulted in the damage and without which it would not have occurred, that is, to the party who had the last clear chance to avoid the accident. (citations omitted) Whatever the terminology, the inquiry is always whether the difference in the gravity of the faults of the participants is so great as to throw the whole loss upon one. (citation omitted)
***
With equal certainty it was shown that the agents of Savage inspected the load before the journey was begun and that the driver concluded from his observation that the load was not properly fastened to the truck when he took charge of it. Obviously it was his duty, having this knowledge, to drive with particular attention to the speed of the vehicle but he conducted himself as if conditions were normal and the catastrophe ensued. It follows, applying the rule above set out, that Savage is not entitled to recover from the United States for damages to the Savage truck, but that the United States is entitled to recover from Savage for the damage to its airplane engines and containers.
***
Savage was not only obligated to carry the goods safely but it had the last clear chance to avoid the catastrophe, and therefore as the principal offender it must indemnify the United States [the shipper] for any damages which it is obliged to pay to the injured parties.

209 F.2d at 444-47 (emphasis added).

         The Savage court concluded that, because the carrier was aware, at the time he took charge of the load, that load was not properly fastened to the truck, the “carrier [would] [] be liable notwithstanding the negligence of the shipper.” Id. at 445.

         B. MINNESOTA LAW

         The Minnesota Supreme Court has not addressed the issue of whether the Savage rule applies to personal injury claims or whether the Savage rule is compatible with Minnesota's comparative fault statutory scheme. “When no decision of a state's highest court has addressed an issue of that state's law, the federal court confronted with that issue ‘must predict how [the State's] highest court would rule.'” Stuart v. Colo. Interstate Gas. Co., 271 F.3d 1221, 1228 (10th Cir. 2001) (quoting FDIC v. Schuchmann, 235 F.3d 1217, 1225 (10th ...


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