Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

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The Seventh Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of the judgment of the Department of Labor's Administrative Review Board (ARB) affirming an administrative law judge's (ALJ) determination that BNSF Railway Company had a valid same-action affirmative defense to Plaintiff's retaliation claim, holding that substantial evidence supported the decision.Plaintiff, a train engineer, brought an administrative complaint with the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) alleging that BNSF, his employer, violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by retaliating against him for raising safety concerns and refusing to engage in unsafe practices. OSHA dismissed the complaint. A Department of Labor ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim based on the statutory same-action affirmative defense. The ARB affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied review, holding that substantial evidence supported the ARB's decision that the same-action defense applied to BNSF's discipline of Plaintiff. View "Brousil v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law

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As Plaintiff William Frey proceeded through the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) checkpoint at Jackson Hole Airport in Teton County, Wyoming, the body scanner alerted TSA screeners to a potentially suspicious area on Plaintiff’s person. When the security screeners informed Plaintiff that they would have to conduct a pat down, Plaintiff became agitated and repeatedly refused to cooperate. So the security screeners summoned a police officer, Defendant Nathan Karnes, who arrested Plaintiff. After being transported to the Teton County Jail for booking, Plaintiff continued his noncooperation, refusing to participate in the booking process and demanding that jail officials allow him to have an attorney present. Jail officials detained Plaintiff for about three hours before releasing him. Plaintiff sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, alleging many violations of his rights. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s federal claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, denied leave to file a second amended complaint, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims, awarded attorney’s fees to the Municipal Defendants, and sanctioned Plaintiff’s attorneys. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that some of his claims should have survived dismissal, that the district court should have permitted him to add some of his new proposed claims in a second amended complaint, and that the district court should not have awarded any attorney’s fees. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Frey v. Town of Jackson, WY, et al." on Justia Law

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The Federal Aviation Administration hired Archer Western Contractors to build air traffic structures for an airport in Las Vegas. Archer challenged the FAA’s resolution of three contract disputes.   On the first dispute, the FAA said that Archer waited too long to challenge the FAA’s failure to provide an equitable adjustment for a modification to the contract. For the second dispute, the FAA said that Archer’s claim regarding contract modifications’ “cumulative impact” was also untimely. As for the third dispute, the FAA found that Archer had failed to install proper rectangular air ducts.   The DC Circuit granted Petitioners’ petition in part and denied it in part. The court vacated the FAA’s order only as to its dismissal of Archer’s first claim for failure to provide an equitable adjustment. The other challenged aspects of the FAA’s order are not arbitrary and capricious. The court held that the FAA erred in dismissing as untimely Archer’s failure-to-provide-an-equitable-adjustment claim. The court agreed with the FAA on the other two issues.   The court explained that it is reviewing a failure-to-provide-an-equitable-adjustment claim. And that claim was timely filed only one year and four months after it accrued — well within the two-year window for Archer to file a claim. However, Archer needed to separately allege a claim for cumulative impact within two years of that claim’s accrual. Instead, the ODRA did not receive notice of Archer’s cumulative impact until well past the contract’s two-year limit for filing a claim. The FAA was therefore correct to dismiss Archer’s cumulative-impact claim as untimely. View "Archer Western Contractors. LLC v. U.S. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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In 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) modified its regulations governing the maximum hours that commercial motor vehicle operators may drive or operate within a certain timeframe. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union representing commercial truck drivers, and three national nonprofit organizations petitioned for review. They argued that the Final Rule was arbitrary and capricious for failing to grapple with the safety and driver health consequences of changes to record-keeping rules for short-haul commercial vehicle drivers and break requirements for long-haul drivers.   The DC Circuit denied the petition for review. The court held that the modifications to the hours-of-service rules were sufficiently explained and grounded in the administrative record. The court explained that the Administration not only directly tackled the issue of driver health but also reasonably explained why the health benefits estimated in the 2011 Rule would continue under the modified 30-minute break rule. That met the APA’s requirements. View "Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety v. FMCSA" on Justia Law

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Union Pacific Railroad Company (“Union Pacific”) sought to end its operations in Palestine, Texas but has been unable to do so because of a 1954 Agreement between its predecessor and Defendants City of Palestine (“Palestine”) and Anderson County, Texas (“Anderson County”) has prevented it from leaving.   Union Pacific filed a motion for summary judgment, which the district court granted, holding that the 1954 Agreement was expressly and impliedly preempted. After the district court entered judgment, Palestine and Anderson County filed suit in Texas state court seeking to enforce the 1955 Judgment which had approved the 1954 Agreement.   Defendants appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Union Pacific and the denials of their motion to dismiss for failure to join a necessary party, motion for judgment on the pleadings, and cross-motion for summary judgment.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling granting summary judgment for Union Pacific after determining that federal law preempts the statutorily mandated contractual agreements between the parties, both expressly and as applied. The court explained that there is no requirement for contemporaneous movement of property related to the rails for the regulation to be preempted. If the facilities or services—in any non-incidental way—relate to the movement of property by rail, they are preempted by the ICCTA.  Further, the court held that the district court properly determined that the Anti-Injunction Act does not bar Union Pacific from seeking declaratory relief. View "Union Pac. RR v. City of Palestine" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked as a driver for California Transit. After California Transit terminated his employment, Evenskaas filed this wage and hour class action against California Transit; its owner, and the company that administered California Transit’s payroll, Personnel Staffing Group, LLC (collectively, the California Transit defendants).   Because Plaintiff signed an arbitration agreement, in which he agreed to arbitrate all claims arising from his employment and waived his right to seek class-wide relief, the California Transit defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion. The California Transit defendants appealed, contending the FAA applies to the arbitration agreement.   The Second Appellate District reversed the order denying Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration is reversed. The court directed the trial court to enter a new order granting the motion and dismissing Plaintiff’s class claims. The court explained that because the paratransit services California Transit hired Plaintiff to provide involve interstate commerce for purposes of the FAA, the FAA applies to the arbitration agreement and preempts the Gentry rule that certain class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements are unenforceable. View "Evenskaas v. California Transit, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Federal Railroad Administration (“Administration”) issued a broad-ranging rule revising the regulations governing freight railroad safety (“Final Rule”). Two unions representing employees of freight railroads—the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (together, “Unions”)—petitioned for review. The Unions principally argue that the Administration fell short in numerous respects in its statutory obligation to prioritize safety in regulatory decision-making. They also contend that the Administration impermissibly denied them an opportunity to seek reconsideration, and that the Final Rule was untimely issued.   The DC Circuit agreed with Unions that the portion of the Final Rule lifting calibration requirements for certain telemetry devices did not grapple with the Administration’s safety obligation. But the court found that all Petitioner’s other challenges fail either on the merits or for lack of jurisdiction. As a result, the court granted the petition in part, denied the petition in part, dismissed the petition in part, and remanded part of the Final Rule.   The court stated that it agrees that the Administration acted arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to address the safety consequences of its decision for end-of-train devices that lack self-calibration technology. The court explained that nothing in the Administration’s explanation amounts to an “express and considered conclusion” regarding this safety issue, let alone a reasonable one. And the Administration offered no other explanation for how jettisoning a safety rule in favor of manufacturers’ self-regulation promotes safe rail operations. View "Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers v. FRA" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of special appeals denying a motion for reconsideration of the circuit court's judgment reversing the decision of the County Board of Appeals of Anne Arundel County denying 808 Bestgate Realty, LLC's request for transportation impact fee credits, holding that remand was required.The transportation impact fee credits Bestgate sought was in connection with road improvements it made to a county road as part of a redevelopment project. The County's engineer administrator determined that the improvements provided transportation capacity that met the requirements of the County's standards applicable to roads, but the Board denied Bestgate's request for transportation impact fee credits. The circuit court reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) under the plain language of Md. Code Ann. 17-11-207(c), Bestgate was entitled to receive the requested transportation impact fee credits; and (2) the Board erred in its interpretation of the Code. View "Anne Arundel County v. 808 Bestgate Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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Norman Champine brought an action against the Michigan Department of Transportation in the Court of Claims alleging that defendant had breached its duty to maintain I-696. Plaintiff was driving on I-696 in Macomb County when a large piece of concrete dislodged from the road and crashed through the windshield of his car, causing serious injuries. The Court of Claims granted summary judgment in favor of defendant on the basis that plaintiff had failed to provide proper notice under MCL 691.1404. The court reasoned that plaintiff’s separate notice to defendant was inadequate because it was not filed in the Court of Claims, the complaint itself could not serve as notice, and the complaint had not identified the exact location of the highway defect. Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that the filing of a complaint could not satisfy the statutory notice requirements. The Court of Appeals declined to address whether plaintiff also failed to adequately describe the location of the incident, even assuming plaintiff’s complaint could serve as proper notice. The Michigan Supreme Court determined “notice” was not defined by MCL 691.1404, so courts were permitted to consider its plain meaning as well as its placement and purpose in the statutory scheme. "The plain meaning of the word 'notice' in the context of the statute indicates only that the governmental agency must be made aware of the injury and the defect. The statute does not require advance notice beyond the filing of the complaint, and the Court of Appeals erred by holding otherwise. Plaintiff properly gave notice by timely filing his complaint in the Court of Claims." Nonetheless, the case had to be remanded to the Court of Appeals for that Court to address whether the complaint adequately specified the exact location and nature of the defect as required by MCL 691.1404(1). View "Champine v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Dean McMaster brought a negligence action against DTE Energy Company, Ferrous Processing and Trading Company (Ferrous), and DTE Electric Company (DTE), seeking compensation for injuries he sustained when a metal pipe fell out of a scrap container and struck him in the leg. DTE, the shipper, contracted with Ferrous to sell scrap metal generated by its business. DTE and Ferrous moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion as to DTE but denied the motion as to Ferrous. McMaster settled with Ferrous and appealed with regard to DTE. The Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that DTE did not have a duty to warn of or protect McMaster from a known danger, relying on the open and obvious danger doctrine. McMaster sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court peremptorily vacated Part III of the opinion and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of DTE’s legal duty under the law of ordinary negligence. On remand, the Court of Appeals again affirmed the trial court, finding that the common-law duty of a shipper was abrogated by Michigan’s passage of MCL 480.11a, which adopted the federal motor carrier safety regulations as part of the Motor Carrier Safety Act (the MCSA). The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the common-law duty of care owed by a shipper to a driver was not abrogated by MCL 480.11a. As an issue of first impression, the Court adopted the “shipper’s exception” or “Savage rule” to guide negligence questions involving participants in the trucking industry, as this rule was consistent with Michigan law. Applying this rule, the Supreme Court affirmed on alternate grounds, the grant of summary disposition to DTE Electric Company (DTE) because there existed no genuine issue of material fact that DTE did not breach its duty to plaintiff. View "McMaster v. DTE Energy Company" on Justia Law