Justia Transportation Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Timothy Johnson v. Diakon Logistics, Inc.
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
Betancourt v. Transportation Brokerage Specialists, Inc.
Plaintiff worked as a delivery driver for TBS, a “last-mile” delivery company whose primary client was Amazon.com. At the start of his employment, he signed an At-Will Employment, Non-Disclosure, Non-Solicitation, Class-Action Waiver and Arbitration Agreement. Plaintiff filed suit asserting violations of the Labor Code, California’s Unfair Competition Law, and the Private Attorneys General Act, unlawful retaliation, and wrongful termination. The trial court denied TBS’s motion to compel the plaintiff to arbitrate his individual claims and to dismiss his class claims. The court found that the plaintiff was exempt from Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. 1, FAA) coverage because he was a transportation worker engaged in interstate commerce and that the class action waiver was unenforceable, rendering the arbitration agreement unenforceable.The court of appeal affirmed that the plaintiff is exempt from FAA coverage and that the class action waiver is unenforceable under California law. The court reversed the order denying the motion to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s individual claims; the trial court improperly found the arbitration agreement unenforceable in its entirety rather than severing the class action waiver provision from the remainder of the employment agreement and considering the validity of the arbitration provision with respect to the individual claims for unlawful retaliation and wrongful termination. View "Betancourt v. Transportation Brokerage Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law
Southern Furniture Leasing v. YRC
Southern Furniture Leasing, Inc. filed a putative class action against a group of less-than-truckload (“LTL”) freight carriers, all predecessors to or current subsidiaries of YRC, Inc. Southern Furniture alleged YRC “carried out a widespread and systematic practice of overcharging its customers by intentionally using inflated shipment weights when determining shipment prices.” YRC asked the Tenth Circuit to affirm on the alternate ground that Southern Furniture failed to allege Article III standing. The district court rejected YRC’s standing argument, and the Tenth Circuit agreed with its analysis. The district court granted YRC’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that Southern Furniture had only 180 days to contest the alleged overcharges under 49 U.S.C. 13710(a)(3)(B). To this, the Tenth Circuit concurred and affirmed. View "Southern Furniture Leasing v. YRC" on Justia Law
Stampley v. Altom Transport, Inc.
Stampley, the owner-operator of a tractor-trailer, provided hauling services for Altom. Altom agreed to pay Stampley 70% of the gross revenues that it collected for each load he hauled and to give Stampley a copy of the “rated freight bill” or a “computer-generated document with the same information” to prove that it had properly paid Stampley. The contract granted Stampley the right to examine any underlying documents used to create a computer-generated document and required him to bring any dispute regarding his pay within 30 days. Years after he hauled his last Altom load, Stampley filed a putative class action, alleging that Altom had shortchanged him and similarly situated drivers. The district court certified a class and held that Altom’s withholdings had violated the contract. Stampley had moved for summary judgment on the 30-day provision before the class received notice. The court subsequently denied Stampley’s motion for summary judgment, decertified the class, granted Altom summary judgment, and held that Stampley’s individual claims were barred.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not abuse its discretion in finding Stampley an inadequate class representative and decertifying the class. The court found that the 30-day period began to run as soon as Stampley received any computer-generated document purporting to have the same information as the rated freight bill, necessarily including those that lacked the same information as the rated freight bill. View "Stampley v. Altom Transport, Inc." on Justia Law
Orduno v. Pietrzak
Plaintiff filed suit against the police chief, the city, and other public officials, alleging violations of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). After the police chief admitted liability for six violations of the Act, the jury awarded plaintiff punitive damages. The district court ruled that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that the city was directly liable for the violations, but authorized the jury's finding that the city was vicariously liable for the police chief's actions.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that plaintiff's proposed class failed to satisfy the numerosity requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and the predominance requirement of Rule 23(b)(3); the district court properly refused to entertain direct liability against the city where the police chief acted for personal reasons, not under the auspices of official policymaking authority, and thus his actions did not represent a policy of the city; the district court correctly construed the civil action provisions of the Act to incorporate background tort-related rules of vicarious liability; the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding certain evidence at trial; and the district court did not err in declining to award requested costs. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining claims and denied the city's motion to strike portions of plaintiff's appendix and brief. View "Orduno v. Pietrzak" on Justia Law
Fox v. Transam Leasing
Plaintiffs, three independent truckers representing themselves and a class of similarly situated truck drivers, contended that Defendants TransAm Trucking, Inc. and TransAm Leasing, Inc. (collectively “TransAm”) violated the Department of Transportation’s truth-in-leasing regulations by requiring the truckers to pay TransAm $15 per week to use TransAm’s satellite communications system. This $15 usage fee violated 49 C.F.R. 376.12(i), which precluded a motor carrier like TransAm from requiring a trucker “to purchase or rent any products, equipment, or services from the authorized carrier as a condition of entering into the lease arrangement.” To that end, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed partial summary judgment granted in favor of the truckers. However, the truckers also asserted a claim for damages, which the district court certified as a class action. Because the truckers failed to present any evidence of their damages resulting from the unlawful usage fee, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court should have entered summary judgment for TransAm on that damages claim. View "Fox v. Transam Leasing" on Justia Law
Costello v. BeavEx, Inc.
BeavEx is a same-day delivery service that uses 104 couriers to carry out its customers’ orders throughout Illinois. By classifying its couriers as independent contractors instead of employees, Beav-Ex attempted to avoid the requirements of state and federal employment laws, including the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA), 820 ILCS 115, which prohibits an employer from taking unauthorized deductions from its employees’ wages. Plaintiffs, and the putative class, were or are couriers who allege that they should have been classified as employees of BeavEx for purposes of the IWPCA, and that any deductions taken from their wages were illegal. The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA), 49 U.S.C. 14501(c)(1) expressly preempts any state law that is “related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier.” The district court held that the FAAAA does not preempt the IWPCA and denied BeavEx’s motion for summary judgment. The court also denied Plaintiffs’ motion to certify the class but granted their motion for partial summary judgment, holding that Plaintiffs are employees under the IWPCA. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of BeavEx’s motion for summary judgment, vacated the denial of class certification, and remanded for further proceeding View "Costello v. BeavEx, Inc." on Justia Law
Fennell v. IL Cent. R.R. Co.
The railroad was originally sued under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act in 2002 in Mississippi, where Fennell lived and worked and was allegedly exposed to asbestos. He had also worked for the railroad in Louisiana. In 2006, after discovery, the Mississippi court dismissed without prejudice. In 2009, Fennell refiled in the circuit court of St. Clair County, Illinois. The railroad sought dismissal under the interstate doctrine of forum non conveniens. The circuit court denied the motion; the appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, stating that the circuit court did not consider all of the relevant factors. The citizens of St. Clair County should not be asked to bear the burden of this lawsuit. The majority of the witnesses, including treating physicians, are in Mississippi and not subject to Illinois subpoenas. Although the St. Clair County circuit court cited “almost 80 years of relevant evidence as to the defendant’s knowledge of the exposure to asbestos” that were held by the defendant’s Belleville law firm located in the county, the supreme court ruled that such documents can be copied and that this is not sufficient to tip the balance as to the proper forum.View "Fennell v. IL Cent. R.R. Co." on Justia Law
Senne v. Vill. of Palatine
Plaintiff found a $20 parking citation on his windshield and initiated a class action, claiming that the inclusion of personal information, such as his driver's license number, address, and weight, violated the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. 2721, which generally makes it unlawful to disclose personal information contained in a motor vehicle record. The district court dismissed and the Seventh Circuit initially affirmed. On rehearing, en banc, the court reversed, holding that the DPPA’s general rule of non-disclosure of personal information held in motor vehicle records and its overarching purpose of privacy protection must inform a proper understanding of the other provisions of the statute. Any disclosure must comply with those legitimate uses of information identified in the statutory exceptions. The Village’s placement of protected personal information in view of the public constituted a disclosure regulated by the statute, regardless of whether plaintiff can establish that anyone actually viewed it. View "Senne v. Vill. of Palatine" on Justia Law
Noel v. NY City Taxi & Limousine Comm’n
Two people who use wheelchairs and organizations that represent persons with disabilities brought a class action against the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission and the TLC Commissioner for violation of Parts A and B of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the New York City Human Rights Law. The district court granted plaintiffs partial summary judgment as to liability on the ADA claim and entered a temporary injunction, requiring that all new taxi medallions and street-hail livery licenses be limited to vehicles that are wheelchair accessible until the TLC proposes and the district court approves a comprehensive plan to provide meaningful access to taxi service for wheelchair-bound passengers. The Second Circuit vacated the temporary injunction as improvidently granted. Although the TLC exercises pervasive control over the taxi industry in New York City, defendants were not required by Title II(A) to deploy their licensing and regulatory authority to mandate that persons who need wheelchairs be afforded meaningful access to taxis. View "Noel v. NY City Taxi & Limousine Comm'n" on Justia Law