Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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Plaintiffs are commercial truck drivers who received citations for violating state vehicle safety laws. State officials reported these citations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for inclusion in the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS), 49 U.S.C. 31106(a)(3)(B). After state courts dismissed misdemeanor charges arising from the citations, the drivers asked the Administration to remove them from the MCMIS. The Administration forwarded the requests to the relevant state agencies, which declined to remove the citations. The drivers later authorized the release of their PreEmployment Screening Program (PSP) reports to prospective employers.The drivers allege harm from the inclusion of their citations in the PSP reports and sought damages under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681e. The drivers alleged that the Administration violated FCRA by not following reasonable procedures to ensure that their PSP reports were as accurate as possible, by failing to investigate the accuracy of their PSP reports upon request, and by refusing to add a statement of dispute to their PSP reports. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The Administration, in releasing MCMIS records as required by the SAFE Transportation Act, is not a “consumer reporting agency” under FCRA. View "Mowrer v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's final judgment against Plaintiffs on their claims that Uber Technologies competed unlawfully in the on-demand, ride-hail ground transportation in and around Boston, Massachusetts, holding that Uber did not compete unfairly in violation of statutory and common law prohibitions governing the commercial marketplace.Plaintiffs - owners of companies that dispatched, leased, and maintained taxicab vehicles and owned taxi medallions - brought this complaint alleging that, in violation of Boston regulations, Uber caused asset devaluation by competing unfairly under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, violating the common law for unfair competition, and aiding and abetting a conspiracy to engage in unfair competition. The district court issued judgment in favor of Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Uber's conduct in the transportation market during a period of regulatory uncertainty did not violate the statutory or common law governing the commercial marketplace. View "Anoush Cab, Inc. v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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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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California’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 (OPPA), under the unfair competition law (Bus. & Prof. Code 17200 et. seq.), addresses the obligations of an operator of a commercial Web site or online service regarding the posting of a privacy policy on the Internet. The state sought damages and injunctive relief under OPPA, alleging that Delta’s Fly Delta mobile application violated the privacy policy requirements. The trial court dismissed, finding the suit expressly preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (49 U.S.C. 41713 (b)(1)). The court of appeal affirmed. To compel Delta to comply with the OPPA would effectively interfere with the airline’s “selection and design” of its mobile application, a marketing mechanism “appropriate to the furnishing of air transportation service,” for which state enforcement has been held to be expressly preempted. View "Harris v. Delta Air Lines" on Justia Law

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Respondent purchased a luxury sports car from Desert Audi. Defendant contracted with Nex-Day Auto Transport, Inc. to facilitate delivery of the vehicle to Washington. Nex-Day negotiated with Dynamic Transit Company/Knights Company (Knights) for delivery of the vehicle. Knights picked up the car, transported it to Washington, but demanded that Nex-Day tender payment for its unrelated past-due invoices before it would proceed with the delivery. Nex-Day failed to do so, and Knights refused to deliver Respondent's vehicle. Respondent brought an action against Knights, alleging various state-law claims. After filing its answer, Knights filed a motion to dismiss Respondent's complaint, asserting that Respondent's state-law claims were preempted by the Carmack Amendment's federal liability limitation for interstate cargo carriers. The district court concluded that the Carmack Amendment was inapplicable and denied Knights' motion. The district court then granted judgment in Respondent's favor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly denied Knights' motion to dismiss; (2) substantial evidence supported the district court's judgment; and (3) the district court's award of damages was proper.View "Dynamic Transit v. Trans Pac. Ventures" on Justia Law

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The issue presented to the Supreme Court in this case was whether under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act a misrepresentation by a seller of a used motor home is subject to a defense that the misrepresentation was made in good faith. Plaintiff Robert Borgen bought a used Travelaire motor home from A&M Motors, Inc. in 2004. The motor home had previously been owned by Thom and Linda Janidlo; the Janidlos traded in the vehicle to A&M Motors about two weeks before Borgen bought it. When the Janidlos traded in the motor home, they indicated that it was a 2002 model. At some point, someone changed the model year to 2003 on the documents at A&M Motors. The title from the State of Alaska showed that the motor home was a 2003 model, but the vehicle identification number (VIN) indicated that the motor home was a 2002 model. Both trial experts testified that the tenth digit of a VIN of a chassis indicates the model year of the chassis, but their testimony as to whether the same holds true for the VIN of a coach was unclear. The VIN on the chassis is the VIN on the vehicle’s title, but a motor home’s model year is determined by the model year of the coach. A&M Motors sold the Travelaire to Borgen as a 2003 model. In August 2005 Borgen discovered documents in the motor home indicating the motor home was actually a 2002 model. He contacted A&M Motors to complain; the only compensation they offered him was a $1,000 service contract. Borgen sued A&M Motors, pleading three causes of action: (1) misrepresentation, (2) violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA), and (3) breach of contract. Borgen moved for summary judgment on his UTPA claim in February 2008. The trial court denied that motion, and a jury ultimately decided that A&M Motors had not engaged in an unfair or deceptive act in its dealings with Borgen. Finding that the trial court did not err by finding the UTPA implied an unknowing affirmative misrepresentation of material fact would not give rise to liability, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment with respect to Borgen's UTPA claims, but remanded for further proceedings on treble damages. View "Borgen v. A&M Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Using FOIA requests directed to the South Carolina DMV, attorneys obtained names and addresses, then sent letters to more than 34,000 individuals, seeking clients for a lawsuit against car dealerships for violation of a state law. The letters were headed “ADVERTISING MATERIAL,” explained the lawsuit, and asked recipients to return an enclosed card to participate in the case. Recipients sued the attorneys, alleging violation of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994 (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2721(b)(4), by obtaining, disclosing, and using personal information from motor vehicle records for bulk solicitation without express consent. The district court dismissed, based on a DPPA exception permitting disclosure of personal information "for use in connection with any civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral proceeding," including "investigation in anticipation of litigation." The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded. An attorney’s solicitation of clients is not a permissible purpose under the (b)(4) litigation exception. DPPA’s purpose of protecting privacy in motor vehicle records would be substantially undermined by application of the (b)(4) exception to the general ban on disclosure of personal information and ban on release of highly restricted personal information in cases there is any connection between protected information and a potential legal dispute. The Court noted examples of permissible litigation uses: service of process, investigation in anticipation of litigation, and execution or enforcement of judgments and orders. All involve an attorney’s conduct as an officer of the court, not a commercial actor, seeking a business transaction. A contrary reading of (b)(4) could affect interpretation of the (b)(6) exception, which allows an insurer and certain others to obtain DMV information for use in connection with underwriting, and the (b)(10) exception, which permits disclosure and use of personal information in connection with operation of private tollroads. View "Maracich v. Spears" on Justia Law

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Using FOIA requests directed to the South Carolina DMV, attorneys obtained names and addresses, then sent letters to more than 34,000 individuals, seeking clients for a lawsuit against car dealerships for violation of a state law. The letters were headed “ADVERTISING MATERIAL,” explained the lawsuit, and asked recipients to return an enclosed card to participate in the case. Recipients sued the attorneys, alleging violation of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994 (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2721(b)(4), by obtaining, disclosing, and using personal information from motor vehicle records for bulk solicitation without express consent. The district court dismissed, based on a DPPA exception permitting disclosure of personal information "for use in connection with any civil, criminal, administrative, or arbitral proceeding," including "investigation in anticipation of litigation." The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded. An attorney’s solicitation of clients is not a permissible purpose under the (b)(4) litigation exception. DPPA’s purpose of protecting privacy in motor vehicle records would be substantially undermined by application of the (b)(4) exception to the general ban on disclosure of personal information and ban on release of highly restricted personal information in cases there is any connection between protected information and a potential legal dispute. The Court noted examples of permissible litigation uses: service of process, investigation in anticipation of litigation, and execution or enforcement of judgments and orders. All involve an attorney’s conduct as an officer of the court, not a commercial actor, seeking a business transaction. A contrary reading of (b)(4) could affect interpretation of the (b)(6) exception, which allows an insurer and certain others to obtain DMV information for use in connection with underwriting, and the (b)(10) exception, which permits disclosure and use of personal information in connection with operation of private tollroads. View "Maracich v. Spears" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought suit against BNSF, alleging common law negligence and seeking compensation for injuries he suffered when the automobile he was driving hit a BNSF railcar that was stopped at a railroad crossing. The district court granted summary judgment to BNSF, dismissing all of plaintiff's claims. Because the court agreed with the Tenth Circuit that the warning regulations did not create a federal standard of care under which the railroad was expected to act, the 2007 Amendments to the Federal Railway Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. 20106, had no effect on the prior case law relating to those regulations. As such, Norfolk Southern Railway v. Shanklin was not overruled by the 2007 Amendment and was controlling. Therefore, plaintiff's warning claims were preempted because the B Street Crossing warning system was paid for in party by federal funds. Further, the local-condition savings clause under the FRSA was not applicable. The court also held that the district court was correct in determining that plaintiff's claim of negligence based on failure to equip the railcar with reflective devices was preempted; the district court appropriately granted summary judgment based on lack of causation and the court need not reach the issue of whether plaintiff's claim was preempted; and the district court properly granted summary judgment as to plaintiff's claim that BNSF was negligent in failing to keep its rolling stock under reasonable and proper control and supervision. View "Grade v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from the dismissal of all claims alleged in a putative class action complaint filed pursuant to the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994 (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2721-2725. Appellees (Lawyers) were South Carolina attorneys who in 2006 and 2007 instituted several "group action" lawsuits in South Carolina state court against numerous car dealerships under the South Carolina Regulation of Manufacturers, Distributors, and Dealers Act (Dealers Act), S.C. Code Ann. 56-15-10 et seq. Appellants (Buyers) were car buyers who received mailings from Lawyers regarding the Dealers Act litigation. Buyers sued Lawyers in this action alleging that Lawyers violated the DPPA when they obtained and used Buyers' personal information without their consent in connection with the Dealers Act litigation. The court held that the district court erred in its determination that the conduct of Lawyers did not constitute solicitation within the contemplation of the applicable DPPA prohibition. Nevertheless, the district court correctly ruled that Lawyers' conduct in respect to Buyers' personal information was undertaken in anticipation and in connection with litigation, a use permitted by the DPPA. View "Maracich v. Spear" on Justia Law