Judgment in Acme Truck Line's favor reversed in cellphone shipment theft case

By Carrie Salls | Jan 1, 2019

HOUSTON – An appellate court has reversed a summary judgment in favor of Acme Truck Line in a case over a settlement of an action over the theft of a shipment of cellphones.

The 1st District Court of Appeals said the 129th District Court of Harris County erred when it granted the summary judgment in a cross-claim filed by appellants CEVA Logistics U.S. Inc. and CEVA Freight LLC for “'recovery of monetary damages, pursuant to (and in the alternative) contract, statute and common law for monies paid'” by CEVA to settle its part of a lawsuit filed by Cello Partnership, doing business as Verizon Wireless.

Justice Terry Jennings said the ruling in favor of Acme was overturned because “fact issues exist concerning the applicability of the agent carrier agreement and the interpretation of the agreement in connection with the bill of lading.”

In its complaint, Verizon Wireless alleged that it delivered more than 34,000 cellphones to Fort Worth on June 19 and June 20, 2009 to CEVA, Acme and American Eagle Transport Inc.

Justice Terry Jennings  

“The defendants were then to deliver the shipment to Memphis, Tennessee, on or about 'June 20 to June 23, 2009, by motor carriage, for an agreed compensation,’” according to the Appeals Court ruling. “However, the shipment ‘was lost, stolen and/or converted by the defendants or by others for whose conduct the defendants [were] responsible.’”

As a result, Verizon Wireless claimed that the phones were never delivered by the defendants, costing it $6.11 million.

The Appeals Court opinion said Acme was hired by CEVA to deliver the phones in question, and Acme hired American Eagle as a subcontractor.

All three delivery parties filed cross-claims against each other in connection with a dispute over who was responsible for reimbursing Verizon Wireless for the undelivered phones.

“Verizon settled with CEVA and Acme and assigned its claims against American Eagle to CEVA,” the opinion said. “Acme and CEVA then filed cross motions for summary judgment on CEVA’s cross-claim against Acme.”

In response to Acme’s claims, the Appeals Court said “CEVA argued that Acme was not entitled to summary judgment because…Acme’s payment to Verizon did not extinguish its liability to CEVA pursuant to the terms of the bill of lading and agent carrier agreement.”

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