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Chessie is a railroad authorized to operate one mile of track in Melrose Park, Illinois. It has apparently been many years since trains have run on that track. Krinos owns and operates an adjacent industrial facility. A spur and side track run over Krinos’s property; Chessie says it has easements to use those tracks. Chessie alleges that Krinos constructed a sewer line and did drainage work, burying parts of its tracks and creating a slope directing runoff that damaged other parts. After Chessie notified Krinos, Krinos removed the dirt from one track and did additional damage. Chessie filed suit, alleging trespass, negligence, and violation of 49 U.S.C. 10903. Section 10903 requires rail carriers to receive permission from the Surface Transportation Board before abandoning parts of their lines. Krinos counterclaimed, alleging that Chessie did not have easements to use the spur and side tracks and seeking a declaratory judgment, quiet title, and ejectment. The district court agreed that section 10903 did not create a private right of action and granted Krinos summary judgment. Chessie did not show that it had easements over Krinos’s property, and an independent contractor, not Krinos, caused the alleged intrusion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Section 10903 does not create an implied right of action. Chessie was not entitled to change its negligence theory after discovery. View "Chessie Logistics Co., LLC v. Krinos Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Clyde Carter, Jr. injured his shoulder and neck while working as a carman at BNSF Railway Company’s yard in Kansas City, Kansas. Carter immediately reported the injury to BNSF. The following year, he filed a Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) damage action, alleging that BNSF’s negligence caused his injury. BNSF’s discovery in defending the FELA lawsuit included a July 2009 deposition of Carter. In January 2012, as trial approached, a BNSF manager reviewed discovery materials provided by BNSF’s attorneys. He discovered discrepancies between Carter’s deposition testimony and information provided on his employment application and medical questionnaire submitted to BNSF in 2005. Thompson initiated a disciplinary investigation into potentially dishonest statements. Later, BNSF opened a second disciplinary investigation to determine if Carter signed a false statement that he arrived at work on time on February 5, 2012. The investigations culminated in two "on-property" evidentiary hearings, the conclusions of which found Carter committed dishonesty violations and recommended discipline in accordance with BNSF’s Policy for Employee Performance Accountability (PEPA). It was recommended Carter be terminated for dishonesty, a "stand alone" violation that could result in dismissal without regard to an employee's prior disciplinary history. Following termination, Carter filed an FRSA complaint with the Department of Labor, alleging that BNSF initiated the investigations leading to his dismissal in retaliation for Carter reporting the August 2007 work-related injury. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration dismissed Carter’s complaint, finding he committed the violations, and BNSF proved by clear and convincing evidence that "other employees who had not engaged in protected activity have been dismissed from service for dishonesty." Carter filed objections. After an evidentiary hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that BNSF violated 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(4) and awarded reinstatement, back pay, attorneys’ fees, and $50,000 punitive damages. BNSF filed an administrative appeal. The Secretary’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) affirmed the ALJ. BNSF appealed. The Eighth Circuit found the ALJ's reasoning was based on a flawed interpretation of the FRSA; though the Administrative Review Board did not rely on the ALJ's chain-of-events causation theory, it affirmed based on findings which were either non-existent or insufficient to support the Board's contributing factor and affirmative defense rulings. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with instructions. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. LABR" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against BNSF, alleging retaliation claims under the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(1)(C). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of certain claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and conclusion that claims that were properly exhausted failed on the merits. The court held that the district court properly concluded that claims asserting additional adverse actions were unrelated to the claims in plaintiffs' OSHA complaint and unexhausted, and plaintiffs failed to exhaust their claims asserting retaliation for alleged protected activity in their statements to a claims representative. In regard to properly exhausted claims, the court held that, assuming that providing information about an injury caused by the carrier's negligence could give rise to liability, plaintiffs first alleged protected activity -- handwritten statements to the trainmaster -- fell short of satisfying section 20109(a)(1). Furthermore, plaintiffs' testimony at the investigative hearing could not have contributed to earlier adverse actions, and plaintiffs failed to prove that the discipline imposed by the company for rule violations was made with retaliatory motive. View "Foster v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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Paris Limousine filed suit against Executive Coach, alleging that limousines it purchased from Executive Coach were in breach of warranty. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that Paris Limousine brought its express warranty claim under Missouri law, which authorizes private enforcement actions for breaches of express warranties. The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 (Safety Act), 15 U.S.C. 1381 et seq., and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards did not affect Executive Coach’s potential liability under Missouri law for breach of its express warranty. The court also held that Executive Coach had not met its burden to demonstrate that conflict preemption applied, and that Paris Limousine had alleged legally cognizable damages. View "Paris Limousine of OK, LLC v. Executive Coach Builders, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against BNSF, alleging a retaliation claim under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) and a negligence claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the FRSA claim, holding that the evidence did not raise a genuine dispute that retaliatory motive prompted by protected activity contributed to plaintiff's dismissal and thus plaintiff failed to make a prima facie case. The court also held that the RRTA was unambiguous and did not include damages for lost wages within the definition of "compensation." Therefore, the regulations providing to the contrary received no deference under Chevron and the court affirmed the district court's decision on this alternate basis. The court need not consider whether it was correct that 26 U.S.C. 104(a)(2) applied to the RRTA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the grant of summary judgment as to this issue. View "Loos v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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After he drove his car into a stationary train that was blocking a traffic crossing, plaintiff filed suit against KCSR, alleging common law negligence claims based on his allegations that the train blocked the crossing for an impermissible amount of time and the train's crew failed to adequately warn approaching drivers of the obstructed crossing. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, holding that plaintiff's Federal Railroad Safety Act argument was unavailing, and that both blocking claims were preempted by the ICC Termination Act. Furthermore, plaintiff's claim that KCSR failed to adequately warn motorists of the obstructed crossing was barred by Mississippi’s Occupied Crossing Rule. View "Ezell v. Kansas City Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Interstate Commerce Termination Act (ICCTA) preempts state regulation of rail transportation, and in this case, the application of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) would not be inconsistent with the ICCTA and its preemption clause. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal, which determined that CEQA is preempted by federal law when the project to be approved involves railroad operations. The Supreme Court held that the ICCTA is not so broadly preemptive, and under the circumstances of this case, the ICCTA does not preempt the application of CEQA to the freight rail project that was the subject of this litigation. The court remanded the matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit upheld the Department's final rule defining e-cigarette use as "smoking" for purposes of airplane travel under 49 U.S.C. 41706. The Department rested its authority for the regulation on two sections authorizing past aircraft smoking regulations, 49 U.S.C. 41706 (prohibition on "smoking" on scheduled passenger flights within, to, or from the United States) and 49 U.S.C. 41702 ("air carrier shall provide safe and adequate interstate air transportation"). The court held that a "smoking prohibition" reasonably applies to products intended to enable users to inhale and exhale nicotine; the regulation was not arbitrary; the Department acknowledged petitioners' contrary evidence and explained why the regulation was still warranted; and the Department did not impermissibly rely on new studies in the final rule, but instead included new supplementary information that expands on and confirms data in the rulemaking record. Because the court upheld the regulation under section 41706, the court need not address section 41702. View "Competitive Enterprise Institute v. DOT" on Justia Law

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A crane permanently attached to a truck chassis and associated tools do not qualify as cargo under 49 U.S.C. 31101(1), and therefore, the truck does not qualify as a commercial vehicle subject to registration and fee requirements under the federal Unified Carrier Registration Act (UCR). The Kansas Corporation Commission fined Appellant, whose truck was stopped by a highway patrol trooper, for failure to register and pay the fee required by the Act. Appellant requested a hearing to challenge the UCR violation. The Kansas Corporation Commission upheld the fine, concluding that Appellant’s truck was a commercial motor vehicle. The district court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the lower courts and vacated the fine, holding that the Commission, district judge, and court of appeals erroneously affirmed the fine because Appellant’s crane and tools did not qualify as cargo, and therefore, the truck was not a commercial motor vehicle in Appellant’s fleet. View "Midwest Crane & Rigging, LLC v. Kansas Corp. Commission" on Justia Law

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National manufactures battery packs, including the lithium battery packs at issue (Batteries), which were regulated as hazardous materials. A Federal Aviation Administration agent inspected National’s Chicago facility and discovered that National made 11 air shipments of the Batteries to customers in California and Canada that did not comply with multiple hazardous material regulations (HMRs). The FAA filed a complaint. National’s vice president testified that he believed, without supporting evidence, the Batteries were exempt from testing because they were similar to previously tested batteries. The shipping papers indicated that each shipments conformed tp the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods. National’s office manager, certified each shipment, but her hazardous materials training was Department of Transportation specific and did not include training on the ICAO Technical Instructions. Because the Batteries were untested lithium batteries, they should have been packed according to the more stringent standards. An ALJ found that National knowingly violated the HMRs. The FAA assessed a civil penalty of $66,000 based on 49 U.S.C. 5123(c). The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. A reasonable person in National’s position would have been aware of its violations; the penalty was within statutory limits, and rationally related to National’s multiple offenses View "National Power Corp. v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law