Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Taxi companies and taxi medallion owners sued Uber, alleging violations of the Unfair Practices Act’s (UPA) prohibition against below-cost sales (Bus & Prof. Code, 17043) and of the Unfair Competition Law (section 17200). The UPA makes it unlawful “for any person engaged in business within this State to sell any article or product at less than the cost thereof to such vendor, or to give away any article or product, for the purpose of injuring competitors or destroying competition” but does not apply “[t]o any service, article or product for which rates are established under the jurisdiction of the [California] Public Utilities Commission [(CPUC)] . . . and sold or furnished by any public utility corporation.” Uber is a “public utility corporation” under section 17024 and is subject to CPUC’s jurisdiction. CPUC has conducted extensive regulatory proceedings in connection with Uber’s business but has not yet established the rates for any Uber service or product. The trial court ruled the exemption applies when the CPUC has jurisdiction to set rates, regardless of whether it has yet done so, and dismissed the case. The court of appeal affirmed, reaching “the same conclusion as to the applicability of section 17024(1) as have three California federal district courts, two within the last year, in cases alleging identical UPA claims against Uber.” View "Uber Technologies Pricing Cases" on Justia Law

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Irma Yolanda Munoz Soto sued Union Pacific Railroad Company and two of its employees, Scott King and Robert Finch (collectively, Union Pacific), for wrongful death (premises liability and general negligence) after Soto’s 16-year-old daughter was struck and killed by a freight train on an at-grade railroad crossing in Santa Clarita. The court granted Union Pacific’s motion for summary judgment, concluding as to Soto’s premises liability claim Union Pacific had no duty to remedy a dangerous condition because it did not own or control the railroad crossing. As to Soto’s negligence claim, the court ruled Soto could not establish that Union Pacific employees had negligently operated the train. On appeal, Soto argued she raised triable issues of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment. After review, of the evidence and governing law applicable to Soto’s claim, the Court of Appeal concurred there were no triable issues of fact, and summary judgment was appropriate. View "Soto v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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The 1986 Bay Area County Traffic and Transportation Funding Act (Pub. Util. Code 131000) established a framework for counties and cities within the nine-county San Francisco Bay area to collectively develop and implement traffic and transportation projects and authorized the voters in those counties to create a county transportation authority to implement a retail transactions and use tax for funding a local transportation plan. San Francisco voters approved the creation of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA). Urban submitted public records requests to the SFCTA under the California Public Records Act (Gov. Code 6250) and the Sunshine Ordinance. SFCTA claimed it was not subject to the Sunshine Ordinance. Urban filed suit. After the parties resolved the outstanding records request issue, the trial court concluded the request for declaratory relief was not moot “due to the SFCTA’s position that it is not subject to the Sunshine Ordinance, which is sufficient to establish an actual controversy” then concluded the SFCTA is a state agency, exempt from the Ordinance. The court of appeal affirmed. Local public agencies are distinct from the cities and counties they serve. While the SFCTA may be classified as a local agency based on the scope of its functions, it remains an agency of the state. The Sunshine Ordinance indicates that it is limited to city agencies. View "SF Urban Forest Coalition v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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LS, a trucking company, also operates as a broker of construction trucking services. Under a 2009 oral agreement between LS and Cheema, Cheema purchased a Super Dump Truck, with the understanding that LS would purchase the truck’s detachable box from Cheema. As the box owner, LS would give priority to Cheema in dispatching assignments to Cheema as a subhauler. The parties entered a written “Subhauler and Trailer Rental Agreement” under which Cheema would submit to LS completed freight bills for all hauling that he performed for LS; LS would prepare statements showing the amount billed payable to Cheema, less a 7.5 percent brokerage fee and, if the work was performed with a box owned by LS, a 17.5 percent rental fee. Cheema began providing hauling services. Cheema claimed that because LS failed to pay him the $32,835.09 purchase price of the box, it remained his, and LS was not entitled to deduct rental fees from the payments due him. In June 2010, LS began paying Cheema $1,000 a month for nine months, noting on the checks that the payments were repayment of a “loan.” Cheema recovered damages from L.S. for having been underpaid and untimely payments. The court of appeal affirmed but remanded for calculation of prejudgment interest and penalty interest (Civil Code 3287, 3322.1), rejecting LS’s argument that the parties’ oral agreement for Cheema to sell it the box, justifying its deductions for rental, was enforceable. View "Cheema v. L.S. Trucking, Inc." on Justia Law

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Churchman alleged she bought a train ticket at a station operated by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, passed through turnstiles, and went to the boarding platform. She claims she was confused by the “opening and closing of doors on opposite side [sic] of the cars,” partially inaudible and confusing instructions broadcast over the public address system, and “abrupt turns and moves” by other passengers. Churchman lost her balance and fall. Churchman sued the District for violating its duty of care as a common carrier (Civ. Code, 2100). The District successfully argued it has no common law negligence liability and its liability as a common carrier applies only to passengers in transit, i.e., aboard the BART train. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal. Civil Code section 2100, which imposes on common carriers a duty to “use the utmost care and diligence for [passengers’] safe carriage,” does not apply to minor, commonplace hazards in a train station. Because the District is a public agency, it is not liable for personal injuries in the absence of a statute providing for liability (Gov. Code, 815), so there is no statutory basis for liability. View "Churchman v. Bay Area Rapid Transit District" on Justia Law

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Uber is a “transportation networking company” (TNC) regulated by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC). All TNCs must submit annual reports to the CPUC, containing specified data, and file an annual accessibility plan. After receiving numerous complaints from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency regarding illegal parking, traffic congestion, and safety hazards caused by TNC vehicles, the city attorney opened an investigation into possible violations of state and municipal law by TNCs, including Uber. The city attorney issued the administrative subpoenas to Uber, including a request for: Annual Reports filed by Uber with CPUC, 2013-2017 and all of the raw data supporting those reports on providing accessible vehicles, driver violations/suspensions, number of drivers completing training courses, updates on accessibility plans, report on hours/miles logged by drivers, and providing service by zip code. Uber refused to comply, arguing that the CPUC had primary jurisdiction. The court of appeal affirmed a trial court order that Uber produce the reports. It was within the city attorney’s investigative powers to issue the administrative subpoenas. Public Utilities Code section 1759 did not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction and the primary jurisdiction doctrine did not apply to postpone enforcement of the administrative subpoenas. View "City and County of San Francisco v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant Roy Miller Freight Lines, LLC (RMFL) appealed a trial court order granting in part and denying in part its motion to compel its former employee, plaintiff William Muller (Muller), to arbitrate his wage and hour claims under the arbitration provision in his employment agreement. The trial court granted RMFL’s motion on all but one cause of action: Muller’s claim for unpaid wages, and stayed the prosecution of that remaining claim pending the completion of the arbitration. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) applied, and more specifically, whether Muller was a transportation worker engaged in interstate commerce under 9 U.S.C. 1 (section 1) and thus exempt from FAA coverage. If he was exempt from FAA coverage, as the trial court held, Muller did not have to arbitrate his cause of action for unpaid wages because Labor Code section 229 (section 229) authorized lawsuits for unpaid wages notwithstanding an agreement to arbitrate. If the FAA applied, as RMFL contended, the FAA preempted section 229, and Muller had to submit his cause of action for unpaid wages to arbitration, along with his five other causes of action. The Court found the trial court correctly concluded Muller was exempt from FAA coverage under section 1. Even though Muller did not physically transport goods across state lines, his employer was in the transportation industry, and the vast majority of the goods he transported originated outside California. Thus, section 229 required staying the prosecution of his cause of action for unpaid wages while the other five causes of action proceed to arbitration. View "Muller v. Roy Miller Freight Lines, LLC" on Justia Law

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An officer responding to a midnight single-vehicle collision saw an SUV on the edge of the road moving forward and backward; one tire was missing and the wheel’s rim and brake system were extensively damaged. Munro got out of the driver’s seat. The officer noticed he was “extremely unsteady,” that his breath smelled like alcohol, his eyes were red, and his speech was slurred. The officer asked Munro to lean against the patrol car. Munro refused, denied being the driver, and denied consuming alcohol. The officer attempted to conduct a field sobriety test, asking Munro to follow his pen with his eyes. Munro closed his eyes and stated that he would not take a chemical test. The officer arrested Munro on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Before the Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend a driver’s license for refusal to submit to a chemical test to determine the alcohol content of his blood, the driver “shall be told [by the arresting officer] that ... failure to submit ... will result in ... the suspension of the person’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle" for one year. (Veh. Code 23612(a)(1)(D). The officer intended to read Munro the Admonition but Munro began kicking and trying to slip out of his handcuffs. Three officers placed Munro into a restraint The officer never read the Admonition. The court of appeal reversed Munro's suspension. An officer is not relieved of the duty to at least attempt to provide the Admonition when the suspected drunk driver engages in disruptive behavior. View "Munro v. Department of Motor Vehicles" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action lawsuit against Uber for providing unlicensed transportation services that appropriated passengers and income from licensed taxicab drivers. Plaintiffs alleged Uber failed to comply with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) licensing requirements for charter-party carriers. Uber argued the court lacked jurisdiction under Public Utilities Code section 1759 due to ongoing rulemaking by the CPUC. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the amended complaint, stating that the CPUC has authority to adopt regulatory policies concerning transportation companies and has exercised that authority. A finding of liability against Uber in this action would hinder or interfere with the CPUC’s exercise of its regulatory authority by requiring the trial court to make factual findings regarding whether Uber falls within the charter-party carrier definition and, if so, which regulations would apply to its operations. View "Goncharov v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a wrongful death suit against the City after her grandson died during a police pursuit. Plaintiff claimed that an officer acted negligently and committed battery by performing a Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) that caused the vehicle in which her grandson was a passenger in, to spin into a street light pole. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, holding that the City was immune from liability for the officer's conduct under Vehicle Code section 17004.7. Section 17004.7 provided immunity to a public agency employing peace officers when the agency adopts and promulgates a policy on vehicular pursuits in compliance with the requirements of the statute. View "Ramirez v. City of Gardena" on Justia Law