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Eggleston v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

October 2, 2019

Cortland James Eggleston and Rebecca McCutcheon, Appellants,
United Parcel Service, Inc., Rick Fogle, and John Doe, Defendants, of which United Parcel Service Inc. is the Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-000984

          Heard November 5, 2018

          Appeal From Orangeburg County Maite Murphy, Circuit Court Judge.

          Shane Morris Burroughs, of Lanier & Burroughs, LLC, of Orangeburg; Kathleen Chewning Barnes, of Barnes Law Firm, LLC, of Hampton; and Justin Tyler Bamberg, of Bamberg Legal, LLC, of Bamberg, for Appellants.

          George Troy Thames, of Willson Jones Carter & Baxley, P.A., of Mt. Pleasant; and Ryan R. Corkery, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for Respondent.

          HUFF, J.

         Cortland James Eggleston appeals the trial court's dismissal of his action against United Parcel Service (UPS) for personal injuries he suffered after UPS failed to timely deliver thyroid medication. His wife, Rebecca McCutcheon, appeals the trial court's dismissal of her loss of consortium action. Eggleston and McCutcheon (collectively, Appellants) assert the trial court erred in holding their claims were preempted by federal law. We affirm.


         As a veteran, Eggleston received treatment for his thyroid condition from the Veterans Administration (VA) hospital in Charleston. On numerous occasions in the past, UPS delivered shipments of medications from the VA hospital to Eggleston at his rural Eutawville address. On April 11, 2013, Eggleston was expecting a delivery of thyroid medication from the VA Hospital by UPS, but the medication failed to arrive. The VA Hospital communicated with UPS between April 11, 2013, and April 15, 2013, in an attempt to rectify the situation. After confirming Eggleston's address, a pharmacist with the VA accessed UPS's records and discovered the package was being held because a correct street name was needed. The pharmacist called UPS and spoke with a representative who contacted the local driver, Rick Fogle, and instructed him to contact Eggleston and make the delivery that date. The pharmacist also sent a partial refill of the medication by overnight delivery as Appellants had declined to acquire a partial supply from a local pharmacy due to transportation and financial issues.

         Appellants also contacted UPS, which informed them Eggleston's address did not exist or could not be located, despite UPS's previous delivery of medications to the address. Eggleston's condition worsened into a thyroid storm, causing seizures, congestive heart failure, extremely elevated blood pressure, hospitalization, and surgical intervention. UPS finally delivered the medication thirteen days after it had been shipped.

         Eggleston brought an action against UPS and Fogle for negligence and negligent entrustment. McCutcheon brought a similar action for loss of consortium. UPS moved to dismiss both actions asserting the state law claims were preempted by the the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA), 49 U.S.C.A. § 14501(c)(1) (West 2016). The trial court granted the motions to dismiss in separate orders. Appellants filed motions to alter or amend, which the trial court denied. This appeal, which consolidated Appellants' actions, followed.


         The issue of whether a federal statute preempts state law is a question of law. Weston v. Kim's Dollar Store, 385 S.C. 520, 526, 684 S.E.2d 769, 772 (Ct. App. 2009). The appellate court "may make its own ruling on a question of law without deferring to the circuit court." Henderson v. Summerville Ford-Mercury Inc., 405 S.C. 440, 446, 748 S.E.2d 221, 224 (2013); see also Mims Amusement Co. v. S.C. Law Enf't Div., 366 S.C. 141, 145, 621 S.E.2d 344, 346 (2005) (stating the appellate court may decide a novel question of law "based on its assessment of which answer and reasoning best comport with the law and public policies of this state and the [c]ourt's sense of law, justice, and right.").


         I. Application of the FAAAA

         Appellants argue the trial court erred in finding their claims were preempted by the FAAAA. We disagree.

         "The preemption doctrine is rooted in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and provides that any state law that conflicts with federal law is 'without effect.'"[1] Priester v. Cromer, 401 S.C. 38, 43, 736 S.E.2d 249, 252 (2012) (quoting Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516 (1992)). "'[T]he purpose of Congress is the ultimate touchstone' of pre-emption analysis." Id. (quoting Cipollone, 505 U.S. at 516). "To discern Congress'[s] intent we examine the explicit statutory language and the structure and purpose of the statute." Id. (quoting Ingersoll-Rand Co. v. McClendon, 498 U.S. 133, 138 (1990)).

         In an attempt to improve the airline industry through "maximum reliance on competitive market forces," Congress enacted the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), which included a preemption provision to "ensure that the States would not undo federal deregulation with regulation of their own."[2] Rowe v. N.H. Motor Transp. Ass'n, 552 U.S. 364, 36-38 (2008) (quoting Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 504 U.S. 374, 378 (1992)).

         Following similar deregulation of the trucking industry, Congress sought to preempt state trucking regulation with the FAAAA, which prohibits states from "enact[ing] or enforce[ing] a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier . . . with respect to the transportation of property." 49 U.S.C.A. § 14501(c)(1). As the preemption provision of the FAAAA tracks that of the ADA, the ...

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