Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

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Iowa Northern Railway Company (“Iowa Northern”) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (the “Union”) are both parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) that is subject to the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”). In 2019, Iowa Northern offered to increase the pay of unionized Train and Engine employees to $300 to recruit additional employees. The Union members rejected the pay increase. Subsequently, Iowa Northern served a Section 6 notice on the Union, proposing changes to the CBA. When the Union failed to respond, Iowa Northern provide notice it intended to resort to self-help, and then increased the pay rate to $300 per day.The Union then filed this case, claiming that Iowa Northern violated the RLA by unlawfully resorting to self-help and seeking a preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo prior to the pay-rate changes. The district court denied the Union's request, finding that it did not meet its burden of establishing the likelihood of success on the merits. The Union appealed.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a Union's requested preliminary injunction, finding that the Defendant railway operator did not violate the Railway Labor Act when it resorted to self-help. The court explained the Union's "prolonged foot-dragging and refusal to respond on an issue of vital importance to Iowa Northern (and to the Union’s members) raise substantial doubt that the Union’s status quo claim will survive." View "Intl Assn of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Trans v. Iowa Northern Railway Company" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the ruling of the trial court that two private entities behind a high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas did not qualify as either railroad companies or interurban electric railway companies entitled to eminent-domain authority, holding that the entities had eminent-domain power as interurban electric railway companies.The owner of real property located along the proposed railway route sought a declaratory judgment that the two private entities lacked eminent-domain authority. The trial court granted summary judgment for the landowner. The court of appeals reversed, determining that the entities had eminent-domain power as both railroad companies and interurban electric railway companies. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the private entities had eminent-domain authority under Chapter 131 of the Texas Transportation Code. View "Miles v. Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) to rescind Petitioner's license under Iowa Code 322.3(12), holding that there was substantial evidence to revoke the motor vehicle dealer license.Petitioner, who owned and operated a vehicle dealership, pleaded guilty to one count of structuring transactions to avoid mandatory reporting requirements in violation of 31 U.S.C. 5324(a)(1) and (3) and was sentenced to a term of probation. The DOT then revoked Petitioner's Motor Vehicle Dealer License for a period of five years because of the structuring conviction. The district court upheld the revocation, stayed enforcement of the license revocation until the completion of the appeal, and tolled the entirety of the five-year revocation period. The court of appeals upheld the license revocation but determined that the district court lacked the authority to toll the five-year license revocation period. The Supreme Court held (1) there was substantial evidence to revoke the motor vehicle dealer license; and (2) the revocation period shall be extended by the length of the stay. View "Carreras v. Iowa Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court affirming the decisions of the administrative law judge (ALJ) and the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) that good cause existed to permit a franchiser to create dueling franchises in a geographic area under Iowa Code 322A.4, holding that the district court did not err in its judgment.At issue was whether, in considering if the establishment of an additional franchisee in a geographic area is in the public interest, the DOT must consider the investment and impacts across the entire geographic area of the existing franchisee. The ALJ and DOT concluded that the twenty-three county area where the additional franchisee would compete with the existing franchisee was the relevant geographic area to consider when determining the presence of good cause under section 322A.4. The court of appeals reversed, arguing that the relevant geographic area to consider was the entire seventy-one county area in which the existing franchise conducted business. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below and affirmed the trial court, holding that the proper focus was the area in which the existing franchisee and the proposed new franchise would be in direct competition. View "Sioux City Truck Sales, Inc. v. Iowa Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Freight shippers (“Plaintiffs”) alleged that the nation’s four largest freight railroads (“Defendants” or “Railroads”) have violated the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1, by engaging in a price-fixing conspiracy to coordinate their fuel surcharge programs as a means to impose supra-competitive total price increases on their shipping customers. Before hearing summary judgment motions, the District Court considered Defendants’ motions to exclude certain evidence on which Plaintiffs rely. Defendants argued the challenged documents were inadmissible under 49 U.S.C. Section 10706(a)(3)(B)(ii)(II) (“Section 10706”) as evidence of the Railroads’ discussions or agreements concerning “interline” traffic.   The D.C. Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the District Court’s interpretation of Section 10706, vacated the District Court’s order and remanded for the court to reconsider the evidence at issue. The court held that the District Court’s interpretation of Section 10706 sometimes strays from the literal terms of the statute.  The court reasoned that a discussion or agreement “concern[s] an interline movement” only if Defendants meet their burden of showing that the movements at issue are the participating rail carriers’ shared interline traffic. A discussion or agreement need not identify a specific shipper, shipments, or destinations to qualify for exclusion; more general discussions or agreements may suffice. Further, the court held that a carrier’s internal documents need not convey the substance of a discussion or agreement concerning interline movements to qualify for exclusion under the statute. View "In re: Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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The four truckers who initiated this action regularly drove more than forty hours per week for their employer, JP Trucking, Inc., a Colorado transport company. The question they presented for the Colorado Supreme Courts review concerned whether they were entitled to overtime pay for hours exceeding forty hours per week or twelve hours per day. The Court surmised the answer depended on the meaning of a state regulation that exempted “interstate drivers” from overtime compensation. The truck drivers and JP Trucking both urged the Supreme Court to declare that the term “interstate drivers” was unambiguous: the truck drivers argued the term referred to drivers whose work predominantly took them across state lines; JP Trucking argued that “interstate drivers” were drivers involved in the transportation of goods in interstate commerce, even if their work never took them across state lines. A division of the Colorado court of appeals determined that “interstate drivers” was unambiguous from JP Trucking’s understanding of the term. The Supreme Court concluded the term was ambiguous, and consistent with a different appellate court division, held that “interstate drivers” refers to drivers whose work takes them across state lines, regardless of how often. Hence, the state exemption from overtime compensation was triggered the first time a driver crosses state lines during a work trip. The case was remanded for further proceedings, namely to allow the appeals court to consider JP Trucking’s remaining contentions regarding the calculation of damages. View "Gomez v. JP Trucking" on Justia Law

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Defendant, Union Pacific, is a national rail carrier. Plaintiff, The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen ("BLET"), is a labor union representing Union Pacific engineers. Division 192 is the exclusive representative for Union Pacific employees around the area. An issue arose when an off-duty fistfight broke out during a union meeting between local division officers and an engineer. About two months after the fight, the engineer filed a complaint with Union Pacific, alleging that was threatened and assaulted by local division representatives in retaliation for taking extra shifts. The suspension of six union members effectively barred all of Division 192’s leadership from Union Pacific’s premises.BLET sued Union Pacific in federal court, alleging Union Pacific retaliated against the union for its shove policy. BLET argued the retaliation violated the section of the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”) prohibiting carrier interference with union activity.The court first found that federal courts have jurisdiction over post-certification disputes alleging that railroad conduct motivated by antiunion animus is interfering with the employees’ “choice of representatives.” Next, the court found that the facts support the determination that the union was likely to succeed in showing that the discipline was motivated by a desire to weaken the local division. Thus, the court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the union is likely to prevail in showing that Union Pacific’s suspension of effectively all the division’s elected representatives amounted to the prohibited interference under the RLA. View "BLET v. Union Pacific Railroad" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, SwiftAir, entered into an agreement with the defendant, Southwest Airlines (“Southwest”). Under the agreement, SwiftAir would develop software for Southwest. In turn, Southwest would test the software to determine whether to license it. When Southwest decided not to license the software, SwiftAir filed various breach of contract and fraud claims against Southwest.The trial court granted summary judgment in Southwest’s favor, finding that the Airline Deregulation Act (“ADA”) preempted all but one of SwiftAir’s claims. The remaining claim was presented to a jury, which found in Southwest’s favor.The Second Appellate District affirmed. For a claim to be preempted by the ADA, 1.) the claim must derive from state law, and (2) the claim must relate to airline rates, routes, or services, either by expressly referring to them or by having a significant economic effect upon them. Here, the subject of the contract was providing passengers with inflight entertainment and wireless internet access, which are considered “services” under the ADA. Thus, Southwest did not need to prove that SwiftAir’s claims would have a significant economic effect on Southwest’s services. View "SwiftAir v. Southwest Airlines" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Vertafore's motion to dismiss in an action brought by plaintiffs, Texas driver's license holders, alleging claims under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) after Vertafore announced that unauthorized users had gained access to personal information protected by the statute that Vertafore had stored on unsecured external servers. Vertafore argued that plaintiffs failed to allege both that the company acted with an impermissible purpose and that the company made a knowing disclosure. The court concluded that plaintiffs have not alleged a disclosure within the meaning of the DPPA, and thus the court need not reach the issue of whether plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that Vertafore acted knowingly and with an impermissible purpose. View "Allen v. Vertafore, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court held that the MCS-90 endorsement, which provides that if a motor vehicle is involved in an accident the insurer may be required to pay any final judgment against the insured arising out of the accident, does not apply to an accident that occurred during an intrastate trip transporting non-hazardous property.One way motor carries can comply with the financial requirements of the federal Motor Carrier Act of 1980 is by adding an MCS-90 endorsement to their insurance policy. The insurer in this case brought an action seeking a declaration that the MCS-90 endorsement creating a suretyship whereby the insurer agreed to pay a final judgment against the insured in certain negligence cases did not apply. The trial court found that the MCS-90 endorsement applied, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the insured driver was neither engaged in interests commerce at the time of the action nor transporting hazardous property, the MCS-90 endorsement did not apply; and (2) the insurer had no duty to defend or indemnify the driver. View "Progressive Southeastern Insurance Co. v. Brown" on Justia Law