Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

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The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission sets and collects Turnpike tolls. Act 44 (2007) authorized the Commission to increase tolls and required it to make annual payments for 50 years to the PennDOT Trust Fund. Act 89 (2013) continued to permit toll increases but lowered the annual PennDOT payments. Plaintiffs, individuals and members of groups who pay Turnpike tolls, assert that since the enactment of Act 44, tolls have increased more than 200% and that the current cost for the heaviest vehicles to cross from New Jersey to Ohio exceeds $1800. Pennsylvania’s Auditor General found that the annual “costly toll increases place an undue burden” on Pennsylvanians and that “the average turnpike traveler will ... seek alternative toll-free routes.” More than 90 percent of Act 44/89 payments—approximately $425 million annually— benefit “non-Turnpike road and bridge projects and transit operations.” Plaintiffs sued, alleging violations of the dormant Commerce Clause and their right to travel. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, 105 Stat. 1914 permits state authorities to use the tolls for non-Turnpike purposes, so the collection and use of the tolls do not implicate the Commerce Clause. Plaintiffs have not alleged that their right to travel to, from, and within Pennsylvania has been deterred, so their right to travel has not been infringed. View "Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Sirius XM in an action brought by plaintiff under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act after the dealership from which he bought a used car provided his personal information to Sirius XM and plaintiff received unsolicited advertisements asking him to renew his radio subscription. The panel held that the Act did not apply where the source of personal information is a driver's license in the possession of its owner, rather than a state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Therefore, Sirius XM's use of personal information derived from plaintiff's driver's license did not violate the Act. The panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to add a claim under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Given the CFAA's limited conception of loss, an amendment would have been futile. View "Andrews v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc." on Justia Law

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Shyan Frye, age 13, was struck by a train while walking her bicycle over a rail crossing in Huron Township, Michigan. At the time of the accident, the train was traveling below the applicable speed limit and its horn sounded for approximately 20 seconds before it reached the crossing—more than required by federal law. The collision proved fatal. Shyan’s mother sued CSX, the train’s owner, Gallacher, the train’s conductor; and Conrail, the owner of the track. The claims against Gallacher were resolved in his favor at summary judgment. A jury returned a verdict in favor of CSX and Conrail. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, upholding the district court’s entry of summary judgment for Gallacher. The court also upheld the district court’s refusal to strike a potential juror for cause during voir dire; evidentiary rulings admitting evidence of the potential side effects of an anti-depressant Shyan was taking at the time of her death, and excluding photographs of the railroad crossing after it was resurfaced; and the court’s refusal to give a jury instruction regarding the heightened duty of care imposed on tortfeasors when children are present. View "Frye v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the police chief, the city, and other public officials, alleging violations of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). After the police chief admitted liability for six violations of the Act, the jury awarded plaintiff punitive damages. The district court ruled that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that the city was directly liable for the violations, but authorized the jury's finding that the city was vicariously liable for the police chief's actions. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that plaintiff's proposed class failed to satisfy the numerosity requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and the predominance requirement of Rule 23(b)(3); the district court properly refused to entertain direct liability against the city where the police chief acted for personal reasons, not under the auspices of official policymaking authority, and thus his actions did not represent a policy of the city; the district court correctly construed the civil action provisions of the Act to incorporate background tort-related rules of vicarious liability; the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding certain evidence at trial; and the district court did not err in declining to award requested costs. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining claims and denied the city's motion to strike portions of plaintiff's appendix and brief. View "Orduno v. Pietrzak" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's request for declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking a ruling that the Missouri State Highway Patrol is forbidden to stop and inspect his 54,000-pound dump truck, used in furtherance of his private commercial venture, without probable cause. The court held that plaintiff is a member of the closely regulated commercial trucking industry, and that the patrol's random stops and inspections of his truck would comport with the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Furthermore, Missouri's regulatory scheme advances a substantial government interest as applied to plaintiff, and warrantless inspections are necessary to further the regulatory scheme. View "Calzone v. Olson" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the City's motion for summary judgment in an action challenging the City's rules banning advertisements in for-hire vehicles (FHVs) absent authorization from the Taxi and Limousine Commission. The district court concluded that the City's rules banning advertisements in for‐hire passenger vehicles, such as Ubers and Lyfts, violate the First Amendment, primarily because the City permits certain advertising in taxicabs. The court held that the City's prohibition on advertising in FHVs did not violate the First Amendment under the Central Hudson test. In this case, the City's asserted interest in improving the overall passenger experience is substantial, the prohibition "directly advances" that interest, and the prohibition was no more extensive than necessary to serve that interest. The court held that the City's determination that banning ads altogether is the most effective approach was reasonable. View "Vugo, Inc. v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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Adams Outdoor Advertising sought a permit to install a billboard near an interchange on U.S. Route 22 in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation denied the permit because Pennsylvania law prohibits “off-premise” billboards within 500 feet of a highway interchange. Adams challenged the provision as too vague and under the First Amendment because there is no time limit for PennDOT’s decisions on applications. The district court ruled in Adams’ favor on the time-limit claim and entered an injunction barring the enforcement of the permit requirement until PennDOT establishes reasonable time limits on its permit decisions. The court dismissed Adams’ vagueness challenge and First Amendment scrutiny challenge. The Third Circuit agreed that the permit requirement violates the First Amendment because it lacks a reasonable time limit for permit determinations and that the Interchange Prohibition communicates clearly what it prohibits and is not vague. The court reversed in part. While the Interchange Prohibition is not subject to strict scrutiny, the record is insufficient to establish the required reasoning for the prohibition. View "Adams Outdoor Advertising Ltd v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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On December 11, 2008, the Baton Rouge area experienced a snowstorm. The storm was of sufficient magnitude to result in the issuance of a winter weather advisory and closure of area schools. The schools reopened the next day as the weather improved. At approximately 8:00 a.m. on the morning of December 12, Sherry Boothe was operating her vehicle eastbound on Greenwell Springs Road, after bringing her daughter to school. As Boothe crossed the Comite River Bridge to return home, she lost control of her vehicle. Her vehicle crossed the median, flipped, and came to rest in the opposite lane of oncoming traffic. According to Boothe, after exiting her vehicle, she believed she had hit either ice or oil because the road was slippery. Boothe ultimately sued the Department of Transportation and Development (“DOTD”), seeking personal injury damages arising from the accident, for not adequately sanding the bridge following the snowstorm. The Louisiana Supreme Court found the uncontroverted evidence in the record revealed there was ice on the roadway at the time of the accident, and DOTD failed to take proper measures to address this condition. This evidence pointed "so strongly in favor of the moving party that reasonable persons could not reach different conclusions." Accordingly, the Court found the district court did not err in granting the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of plaintiffs. View "Boothe v. Louisiana Dept. of Transportation & Development" on Justia Law

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In this Title III adversary proceeding the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Ambac Assurance Corporation's constitutional and statutory challenges to measures the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has taken to block payments to holders of Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority (HTA) bonds, holding that the Title III court lacked the authority to grant the declaratory and injunctive relief that Ambac sought. Ambac, a financial guaranty insurer and individual holder of HTA bonds, commenced this adversary action in the so-called Title III court within the context of HTA's debt-adjustment proceedings pursuant to the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act. Ambac brought Contracts Clause, Takings Clause, Due Process Clause, preemption, and statutory challenges to the Commonwealth's actions and sought a negative injunction preventing the Commonwealth from continuing to impair the flow of HTA revenues to bondholders. The Title III court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the Title III court was barred from granting Ambac declaratory or injunctive relief in this case. View "Ambac Assurance Corp. v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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Batterton was working on a Dutra vessel when a hatch blew open and injured his hand. Batterton sued Dutra, asserting various claims, including unseaworthiness, and seeking general and punitive damages. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of Dutra’s motion to dismiss the claim for punitive damages: The Supreme Court reversed. A plaintiff may not recover punitive damages on a claim of unseaworthiness. Precedent establishes that the Court “should look primarily to . . . legislative enactments for policy guidance” when exercising its inherent common-law authority over maritime and admiralty cases. Overwhelming historical evidence suggests that punitive damages are not available for unseaworthiness claims. The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act) codified the rights of injured mariners by incorporating the rights provided to railway workers under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA); FELA damages were strictly compensatory. The Court noted that unseaworthiness in its current strict-liability form is the Court’s own invention, coming after enactment of the Jones Act. A claim of unseaworthiness is a duplicate and substitute for a Jones Act claim. It would exceed the objectives of pursuing policies found in congressional enactments and promoting uniformity between maritime statutory law and maritime common law to introduce novel remedies contradictory to those provided by Congress in similar areas. Allowing punitive damages on unseaworthiness claims would also create bizarre disparities in the law and would place American shippers at a significant competitive disadvantage and discourage foreign-owned vessels from employing American seamen. View "Dutra Group v. Batterton" on Justia Law