Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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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Enacted after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), creates a comprehensive remedial scheme that governs—and apportions liability for—oil-removal costs. OPA holds oil spillers strictly liable upfront for oil-removal expenses and allows them, if they meet certain requirements, to avail themselves of one of three liability defenses and to seek contribution from other culpable parties. The M/V SAVAGE VOYAGER was transporting oil through a Mississippi waterway when an accident at a boat lift— operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—caused a rupture in the SAVAGE VOYAGER’s hull, through which thousands of gallons of oil poured into the river.The owners of the vessel sued the United States, not under the OPA, but under the common-law admiralty regime. They cited the Suits in Admiralty Act (SAA), a 1920 law by which Congress generally waived sovereign immunity for most admiralty claims. The interplay between the OPA and the SAA was an issue of first impression in the federal courts. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the vessel owner’s claims for removal costs. OPA authorizes no claim against the government for oil-removal damages and OPA’s comprehensive remedial scheme displaced the SAA’s more general sovereign-immunity waiver. View "Savage Services Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court denying the motion to compel arbitration brought by Uber Technologies, Inc. and Rasier, LLC (collectively, Uber) in this action brought by Patricia Sarchi, a user of Uber's ride-sharing service, and the Maine Human Rights Commission, holding that the superior court did not err.Plaintiffs brought this action against Uber for violating the Maine Human Rights Act, Me. Rev. Stat. 5, 4592(8), 4633(2), after Sarchi, who was blind, was refused a ride because of her guide dog. Uber moved to compel Sarchi to arbitrate and to dismiss or stay the action pending arbitration. The motion court denied the motion to compel, concluding that Sarchi did not become bound by the terms and conditions of Uber's user agreement. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, Sarchi was not bound by the terms. View "Sarchi v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the holdings of the district court affirming the conclusions of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approving the Maine Department of Transportation's (MDOT) plan to construct a modern bridge upstream of a current, historic bridge and to tear down the historic bridge when construction is finished, holding that the agency's decision was not arbitrary or capricious.Plaintiffs brought this action challenging the FHWA's decision to approve Maine's decision, seeking to review and set aside that approval. The district court considered and rejected several of Plaintiffs' arguments. The First Circuit affirmed all of the district court's holdings except one, holding (1) Plaintiffs' challenges to the cost estimates were without merit; and (2) the matter must be remanded to the FHWA for the limited purpose of allowing the agency to justify use of a service-life analysis. View "Historic Bridge Foundation v. Buttigieg" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the TSA's Mask Directives, issued in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that the TSA has no authority to issue the directives. Petitioner argued that TSA's authority under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act does not empower TSA to require face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.The DC Circuit found no merit in petitioner's claim and denied the petition for review. The court concluded that the COVID-19 global pandemic poses one of the greatest threats to the operational viability of the transportation system and the lives of those on it seen in decades. TSA, which is tasked with maintaining transportation safety and security, plainly has the authority to address such threats under both sections 114(f) and (g) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The court stated that the Mask Directives are reasonable and permissible regulations adopted by TSA to promote safety and security in the transportation system against threats posed by COVID-19. The Mask Directives are not ultra vires, and the court deferred to the agency's interpretation of the Act. View "Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law

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Belt Railway, the largest switching and terminal railroad in the U.S., has more than 250 miles of track in its main yard south of Chicago’s Midway Airport. Jointly owned by six railroads—BNSF, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific—Belt dispatches more than 8,000 cars a day. Wisconsin Central (a Canadian National subsidiary) prefers to receive Soo Line (a Canadian Pacific subsidiary) traffic at Belt’s yard; Soo prefers the Spaulding yard, 25 miles to the west. The Surface Transportation Board ruled that Wisconsin Central cannot insist that Soo deliver to Belt because a carrier’s power to designate a place where it will receive traffic is limited to line that the designating carrier owns; Wisconsin Central does not wholly own Belt.The Seventh Circuit vacated. “A rail carrier ... shall provide reasonable, proper, and equal facilities that are within its power to provide for the interchange of traffic between … its respective line and a connecting line of another rail carrier, 49 U.S.C. 10742. The Board improperly read “that are within its power to provide” as “that it owns.” A rail carrier can have the “power to provide” facilities by ownership or under a contract. The Board also erred in assuming that the statute requires the two railroads have physically intersecting lines and in making an assumption about expenses. The word “reasonable” gives the Board interpretive leeway; the phrase “that are within its power to provide” does not. View "Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. Surface Transportation Board" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule for trailers pulled by tractors based on a statute enabling the EPA to regulate “motor vehicles.” In that same rule, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued fuel efficiency standards for trailers based on a statute enabling NHTSA to regulate “commercial medium-duty or heavy-duty on-highway vehicles.” The “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2.” 81 Fed. Reg. 73,478, requires trailer manufacturers to adopt some combination of fuel-saving technologies, such as side skirts and automatic tire pressure systems. Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association sought review.The D.C. Circuit vacated all portions of the rule that pertain to trailers. Trailers have no motor and art not “motor vehicles.” Nor are they “vehicles” when that term is used in the context of a vehicle’s fuel economy since motorless vehicles use no fuel. View "Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that relocation benefits provided by a railroad to its employees are exempt under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act as bona fide and necessary expenses incurred by the employee in the business of the employer, 26 U.S.C. 3231(e)(1)(iii). The court also held that, because no regulatory substantiation requirements apply, CSX is entitled to a refund. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States in regard to whether relocation benefits are exempt under section 3231(e)(1)(iii); reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment in regard to CSX's need and failure to satisfy the Accountable Plan Regulation; and remanded for the district court to calculate the amount of CSX's refund and administer the notification process. View "CSX Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law