Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
by
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court issuing a preliminary injunction preliminarily enjoining enforcement of a state law before it took effect, holding that the district court properly entered the preliminary injunction.The law at issue was enacted by the Maine legislature in 2021 to prevent Canadian truck drivers from hauling logs within the state under the auspices of the federal H-2A visa program. Just a few days before the law was to take effect Plaintiffs jointly filed suit in federal district court against the Director of the Maine Bureau of Forestry and the Attorney General of Maine (collectively, the State). Plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief, alleging that the law was preempted under federal law. Plaintiffs then moved for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law. The district court granted the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs carried their burden of showing that the H-2A restriction imposed by the law was likely preempted by federal law; and (2) therefore, the district court properly entered the preliminary injunction. View "Maine Forest Products Council v. Cormier" on Justia Law

by
Innovel hired Diakon to take furniture from warehouses to customers’ homes. Plaintiffs, two of Diakon's drivers, were citizens of Illinois who drove out of Innovel’s Illinois warehouses and made deliveries to customers in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. They signed “Service Agreements” that classify the drivers as independent contractors yet include detailed expectations for the drivers, covering uniforms, business cards, truck decals, and how to perform deliveries and installations. The Agreements select Virginia law to govern the parties’ relations and authorize Diakon to deduct fees and penalties from the drivers’ pay for truck rental fees, insurance, workers’ compensation coverage, damaged merchandise, and customers’ refused deliveries.Plaintiffs sued, alleging that Diakon misclassified them as independent contractors when they were employees under Illinois law. Illinois courts apply a three-part test to determine employee status, which is more likely to classify workers as employees than is Virginia law, which would treat the plaintiffs as contractors. The Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Act allows deductions from pay only if the employee consents in writing at the time of the deduction.The district judge certified a class but ruled in favor of Diakon. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The plaintiffs’ claims arise from their work in Illinois, not from their contracts. The Illinois Act governs payment for work in Illinois regardless of what state’s law governs other aspects of the parties' relations. View "Timothy Johnson v. Diakon Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that Ohio's antiblocking statute, Ohio Rev. Code 5589.21, which prohibits a stopped train from blocking a railroad crossing for more than five minutes, is preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act, 49 U.S.C. 10101 et seq., and that the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20101 et seq., does not exempt section 5589.21 from the Termination Act's preemptive force.The State charged CSX Transportation, Inc. with violating section 5589.21 on five occasions. The trial court dismissed the charges, concluding that the Termination Act and the Safety Act preempted section 5589.21. The court of appeals reversed, holding that federal law did not preempt the antiblocking statute. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court's dismissal of the charges brought against CSX, holding that section 5589.21 is preempted by federal law and therefore may not be enforced against CSX. View "State v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
James Hamre died when an Amtrak train derailed in Dupont, Washington, in 2017. He was survived by his mother, who lived with him, and three adult siblings. Under the wrongful death statutes in effect at the time, James’ mother could recover for his wrongful death because she was dependent on him, while his siblings could recover nothing because they did not rely on James financially. The wrongful death beneficiary statute in effect at that time also denied any recovery to beneficiaries like parents or siblings if they did not reside in the United States. In 2018, one of James’ brothers, acting as his personal representative, agreed to a settlement and release with the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (aka Amtrak), on behalf of their mother, the only then qualifying wrongful death beneficiary. In 2019, the Washington Legislature amended RCW 4.20.020 to remove the requirement that second tier beneficiaries (parents and siblings) be both dependent on the decedent and residents of the United States. It explicitly stated that the amendment should apply retroactively to claims that were not time barred. In 2020, James’ siblings who qualified as beneficiaries under the revised statute brought wrongful death actions against Amtrak. Amtrak argued that retroactive application would violate its contracts clause and due process rights under the Washington Constitution. The federal district court certified two questions to the Washington Supreme Court to address the issue of retroactivity, and the Supreme Court concluded the Washington State Legislature intended the 2019 amendments to RCW 4.20.020 to apply retroactively to permit newly qualified second tier beneficiaries to assert wrongful death claims that were not time barred. View "Kellogg v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp." on Justia Law

by
Municipal authorities in Oklahoma fined Plaintiff BNSF Railway Company for violating its Blocked Crossing Statute—setting up a preemption challenge between the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (“ICCTA”) and the Blocked Crossing Statute. Defendants argued the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”), not the ICCTA, applied to Oklahoma’s statute and did not preempt it. The district court held that the ICCTA preempted Oklahoma’s Blocked Crossing Statute because it regulated railroad operations. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the federal district court and affirmed its decision. View "BNSF Railway v. City of Edmond, et al." on Justia Law