United States District Court, D. Delaware
Michael Okpor, Berlin, New Jersey, Pro Se Plaintiff.
Michael Silverman, Esquire, and Robert C. McDonald, Esquire,
Silverman McDonald & Friedman, Wilmington, Delaware.
Counsel for Defendants Trans Cargo LLC and Luis M. Mundy.
William A. Crawford, Esquire, Franklin & Prokopik,
Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants AES Shipping and
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Michael Okpor ("Plaintiff) proceeds/w se and
has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
He filed this lawsuit on June 11, 2015, alleging violations
of his civil rights, consumer fraud, theft, and breach of
contract. (D.I. 2) An amended complaint was filed on
September 16, 2017. (D.I. 7) The Court has jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331. Presently before the Court
are Defendants' motions for summary judgment, opposed by
Plaintiff. (D.I. 40, 42)
matter arises over a dispute between Plaintiff and Defendants
regarding the shipment of three vehicles to Nigeria.
Plaintiff alleges that he paid several thousands of dollars
towards storage of the vehicles, that Defendants AES Shipping
("AES") and Trans Cargo, LLC ("Trans
Cargo") kept the original titles of the trucks, and
would not release the titles to him even after he paid the
storage fees. The vehicles were stored on the property of
Trans Cargo for several years without being shipped.
Plaintiff was involved in an accident and later disabled. He
notified Trans Cargo and AES about his disability. When
Plaintiff went to Trans Cargo to retrieve his vehicles in
April 2015, he was told he was required to pay for the
storage of the three vehicles before Trans Cargo would
release them. Plaintiff returned in May 2015 to pay the
storage costs, only to discover that just two vehicles were
available, the third (the best dump truck) having been sold
by Defendant Luis Mundy ("Mundy"), the manager of
Trans Cargo. Plaintiff paid almost $5, 000 for storage of the
remaining two trucks, but was not given the original titles
of the trucks.
told Plaintiff the truck titles were held by Defendant
Michael DeCandia ("DeCandia") of AES. Plaintiff
confronted Mundy. Plaintiff alleges that Mundy called him
racist names, made racial threats, and told DeCandia not to
give Plaintiff the titles for the trucks. Plaintiff spoke to
DeCandia, whom he alleges also called him racist names.
Plaintiff alleges that Mundy and DeCandia worked together and
acted in a racially discriminatory manner towards him, and
their discriminatory and illegal acts "offended,
humiliated and tended to degrade Plaintiff to his demand of
his trucks and titles."
case proceeds on claims raised under 42 U.S.C. §§
1982, 1985, and 1986, as well as supplemental State claims of
fraud and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and
fair dealing. (D.I. 5, 6, 8, 9)
an international shipping agent that, among other things,
arranges for the shipment of vehicles to West Africa,
including Nigeria. (D.I. 41 at Ex. 2) DeCandia is the Vice
President of Operations for AES and has worked there since
June 2005. (Id.) Trans Cargo is a terminal business
that ships and loads vehicles. (D.I. 41 at Ex. 3 at 6; Ex. 4
at 5) At various times, Plaintiff, who was born in Nigeria,
contacted AES to arrange for shipment of vehicles from the
United States to Nigeria. (D.I. 41 at Ex. 1 at 6; Ex. 2) To
arrange for the booking of vehicles for shipment overseas,
customers submit a letter of intent to AES and attach a copy
of the vehicle's tide. (D.I. 41 at Ex. 2) Upon receipt,
AES then prepares a dock receipt, which it provides to the
customer. (Id.) The customer is responsible for
making four copies of the dock receipt and the vehicle's
tide and taking those materials with the original tide to the
port. (Id.) Before a customer can hand the vehicle
and the materials off at the port to a terminal receiver like
Trans Cargo, which loads vehicles onto the ships - customers
with a history of payment delinquencies are required to make
prepayment to AES in order for their vehicles to be released
for shipment. (Id.) Plaintiff was considered a
customer with a history of payment delinquencies.
(Id.) For customers with a history of payment
delinquencies, the vehicle is not approved for shipping until
AES receives the full payment. (Id.)
used AES and Trans Cargo to ship trucks to Africa. (D.I. 41
at Ex. 1 at 15) He described the process of shipping a
vehicle from the United States to Nigeria, using AES as the
shipping agent and Trans Cargo as the cargo loader. "In
fact, the process is just simple. First of all, you send the
title, the copy of the title, to AES. AES has to send you
back a dock receipt. Your dock receipt, you have to make four
copies of dock receipt and four copies of your original tide.
You take it to Delaware, to Trans Cargo. Trans Cargo will
stamp it 'received, ' the original copy of the tide
and send it to Customs for clearance. After clearance, Trans
Cargo load the truck for shipment." (Id. at 16)
Once the tides to the vehicles pass through U.S. Customs at
the port, Customs stamps the tide. (Id. at 54) AES
keeps the tide, but it cannot use the tide for any other
purpose. (Id. at 55)
does not recall the actual dates, but around 2012 he
approached AES and Trans Cargo about shipping two dump trucks
and a tractor-trailer to Nigeria. (Id. at 17, 19,
20) Plaintiff had a customer who wanted to buy the vehicles.
(Id. at 20) Plaintiff dealt with DeCandia.
(Id. at 21) At some time during the shipping
process, Plaintiff became disabled following a serious
automobile accident in 2012. (Id. at 11, 23)
Plaintiff testified that the trucks were not shipped because
he became disabled. (Id. at 23)
business records of AES include records of vehicles that
Plaintiff sought to ship including a 1971 Mack Truck with VIN
# DM685SX4862, a 1971 Mack Truck with VIN # R685ST16339, and
a 1972 Mack Tractor with VIN # R685ST30602. (D.I. 41 at Ex.
2) For each vehicle, Plaintiff filled out a letter of intent
to arrange for shipment of the vehicle and furnished a copy
of the vehicle's tide. (Id.) The records also
include a copy of the dock receipt for each vehicle as
completed by U.S. Customs after its examination of each
vehicle. (Id.) Plaintiffs letter of intent claimed
the vehicles were valued at $10, 000, $12, 000, and $6, 000,
respectively, despite each vehicle's age and the high
mileage listed on each of the vehicle's
tide. (Id.) The first ...