Justia Transportation Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government Law
High Rock Lake Partners, LLC v. Dep’t of Transp.
A property owner sought a driveway permit from the State Department of Transportation (DOT) to connect its proposed subdivision's system of roads to a state road by which the property was accessed. Two railroad companies opposed the permit, claiming that the rail traffic at a nearby crossing, located approximately one-quarter of a mile away from the proposed driveway connection, might pose a safety hazard to future residents. Consequently, a DOT engineer denied the permit. On appeal, a DOT division engineer granted the permit request subject to the conditions that the owner make improvements to the railroad crossing and obtain the owning and operating railroads' consent to the improvements. On judicial review, the trial court ruled in favor of DOT, finding the agency acted within the scope of its powers in issuing the driveway permit subject to these conditions. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the conditions imposed by DOT in this case were not statutorily authorized, and therefore, DOT exceeded its authority when it issued the conditional permit. View "High Rock Lake Partners, LLC v. Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law
Malpeli v. Montana
Faith Malpeli brought an inverse condemnation action against the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), seeking compensation for the alleged taking of her property as a result of the reconstruction of Montana Highway 191 near Big Sky during a highway safety improvement project. A jury found that MDT had not taken a property right belonging to Malpeli, and therefore did not reach the question of compensation. Malpeli appealed, arguing that the District Court erred by: (1) denying Malpeli's motions for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial; (2) excluding Malpeli's appraiser from testifying; and (3) allowing MDT to disclose to the jury an offer of compromise it had made to Malpeli before this action was filed. MDT cross-appealed, arguing that the District Court erred by denying its motion for partial summary judgment before trial. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court determined that the motion for summary judgment should have been granted, and therefore affirmed the judgment in favor of MDT.View "Malpeli v. Montana" on Justia Law
Murphy v. MA Turnpike Auth.
Before 1997, the authority operated the Massachusetts Turnpike, the Boston extension of the turnpike, and the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels, crossing under Boston Harbor to connect downtown o the East Boston section. In 1997, while the massive "Big Dig" project was underway, the Legislature placed within authority stewardship the integrated system of roadways, bridges, tunnels, and other facilities known as the MHS, which included the Boston extension and the tunnels it had operated before, as well as the central artery, the central artery north area, and the Ted Williams Tunnel. G.L. c. 81A, 3. The authority was authorized to charge tolls "for transit over or through the [MHS] or any part thereof," and to adjust tolls so that, when supplemented by other revenues, they pay all the expenses of the MHS. The authority required drivers traveling through the Sumner and Williams Tunnels, and the Weston and Allston-Brighton interchanges of the Boston extension, to pay a toll, but did not charge a toll to drivers traveling through the Callahan Tunnel, the central artery, or the CANA. Plaintiffs claimed that tolls were unconstitutional to the extent they were spent on the nontolled portions of the MHS. The trial court dismissed. The Massachusetts Supreme Court affirmed.View "Murphy v. MA Turnpike Auth." on Justia Law
Arlington v. Miller’s Trucking, Inc.
Oliver Arlington was employed by Miller's Trucking as a log truck driver and loader operator pursuant to an oral employment agreement. For his work, Miller's paid Arlington twenty-five percent of the "load rate" as calculated by Miller's. Arlington, however, asserted that according to the parties' oral agreement, he should have been paid a salary in the form of annual wages. Arlington filed a wage claim, seeking the pay he alleged he was owed in regular and overtime wages. The Department of Labor and Industry's bureau dismissed Arlington's claim for lack of merit and lack of sufficient evidence. On appeal, a bureau hearing officer dismissed Arlington's claim. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the hearing officer acted arbitrarily and capriciously in failing to require Miller's to produce material requested by Arlington and in refusing to admit tendered evidence, prejudicing the substantial rights of Arlington, and the district court erred in affirming the hearing officer's judgment; and (2) the hearing officer and district court incorrectly determined that Arlington engaged in activities of a character directly affecting the safety of the operation of motor vehicles in interstate commerce and thus was exempt from overtime requirements. Remanded.View "Arlington v. Miller's Trucking, Inc." on Justia Law
Fairchild v. SCDOT
The Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari to review the decision in "Fairchild v. South Carolina Department of Transportation," (385 S.C. 344, 683 S.E.2d 818 (Ct. App. 2009)). The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for a new trial a negligence action arising from a motor vehicle accident. In relevant part, the Court of Appeals determined (1) Respondent Marilee Fairchild's claim for punitive damages should have been submitted to the jury; (2) the trial court should have charged the jury on the intervening negligence of a treating physician; and (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant William Leslie Palmer's motion under Rule 35, SCRCP for an independent medical examination (IME) to be performed by Dr. James Ballenger. This action arose out of a motor vehicle that occurred on March 1, 2001 while several vehicles were traveling on Interstate 95. Just before the accident, an employee with the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), was driving a dump truck with an attached trailer transporting a backhoe. The employee was traveling in the left lane of the southbound traffic (closest to the median) when he pulled in to a paved "cross-over" in the median so he could turn around and enter the northbound lanes of I-95. While he was stopped waiting for the northbound traffic to clear, the back of his trailer allegedly protruded into the left traffic lane on the southbound side. Several cars traveling south in the left lane directly behind the SCDOT truck, saw the trailer and simultaneously switched to the right lane. When those cars moved over, Fairchild, who was behind them driving a minivan, saw the trailer partially blocking the left lane where she was traveling. She "flashed" her brakes and then continued to brake while staying ahead of the vehicle behind her. Fairchild managed to avoid the trailer, but she was struck by a truck traveling behind her that was driven by William Leslie Palmer. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in Fairchild's favor. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, which found reversible error in the trial court's failure to submit the issue of punitive damages to the jury and to charge the jury on the intervening negligence of a treating physician, and found the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Palmer's motion for an IME to be performed.View "Fairchild v. SCDOT" on Justia Law
Mohamed v. Pennsylvania
The Supreme Court assumed plenary jurisdiction over this matter as a sua sponte exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction to determine the proper forum for adjudicating appeals from the suspension of the certification of an official emission inspection mechanic under section 4726(c) of the Vehicle Code. Appellant Maher Ahmed Mohamed was a certified emission inspector by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (PennDOT). In 2007, a Quality Assurance Officer for PennDOT (Auditor), conducted a records audit at Keystone. The Auditor’s report concluded that Appellant performed faulty emission inspections on four vehicles by connecting the emission equipment to a vehicle other than the one being tested in order to obtain a passing result. The report further indicated that two of the vehicles tested and the vehicle used to obtain the passing results were owned by taxicab companies partly owned by Appellant. The Auditor also found that Appellant falsified the records of the four tested vehicles. Appellant failed to appear at a subsequent agency hearing to answer the charges against him, and the Auditor provided the only testimony by presenting the findings of his report. PennDOT sent Appellant an order notifying him that his certification as an official emission inspector was suspended. Instead of following the directions in the order regarding the filing of an appeal, Appellant filed a petition for review from PennDOT's suspension order in the Commonwealth Court. The Commonwealth Court affirmed PennDOT's decision. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court: "it may be the established practice to file appeals under section 4726(c) in the courts of common pleas; however, such practice remains inconsistent with . . . statutory language. While the Commonwealth Court potentially may have been correct in concluding that the General Assembly intended to enact something different from the actual text of section 933 [of the Administrative Agency Law], the Commonwealth Court was without authority to correct an omission and, therefore, violated established legal principles by disregarding the clear statutory language." Accordingly, the Court remanded the case for PennDOT to conduct an administrative hearing on the question of Appellant's suspension in accordance with the terms of the Administrative Agency Law.View "Mohamed v. Pennsylvania" on Justia Law
Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper
Petitioner Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation employed Respondent William Hoeper as a pilot. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued Respondent a firearm under the federal statute that authorizes the TSA to deputize pilots as law enforcement officers to defend the aircraft should the need arise. After discontinuing its use of the type of aircraft Respondent had piloted for many years, Air Wisconsin required Respondent to undertake training and pass a proficiency test for a new aircraft. Respondent failed three proficiency tests, knowing that if he failed a fourth test, he would be fired. During the last test, Respondent became angry with the test administrators because he believed they were deliberately sabotaging his testing. Test administrators reported Respondent's angry outbursts during testing to the TSA that Respondent was "a disgruntled employee (an FFDO [Federal Flight Deck Officer] who may be armed)" and was "concerned about the whereabouts of [Respondents] firearm." Respondent brought suit against Air Wisconsin in Colorado for defamation under Virginia law. Air Wisconsin argued it was immune from defamation suits as this under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), and unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment. The jury found clear and convincing evidence that statements made by the airline test administrator were defamatory. Air Wisconsin appealed and the court of appeals affirmed. The court of appeals determined that the question of whether the judge or jury decided immunity under the ATSA was a procedural issue determined by Colorado law, and concluded that the trial court properly allowed the jury to decide the immunity question. Air Wisconsin appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals, adding that the airline was not immune from suit or defamation under the ATSA. Furthermore, the Court held that the record supported the jury's finding of clear and convincing evidence of actual malice.View "Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper" on Justia Law
Germantown Cab Co. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority
Appellees Germantown Cab Company and Sawink, Inc., received fines and suspensions for violations of regulations promulgated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (the Authority or PPA), pertaining to driver licensure, currency of vehicle inspection, and tire tread wear. The companies pursued declaratory relief and appellate remedies, claiming that the Authority's regulations were invalid, since they were not filed with the Legislative Reference Bureau in accordance with the Commonwealth Documents Law, which is generally applicable to Commonwealth agencies. The Authority took the position that its regulations were proper, though they were not promulgated in accordance with the CDL, in light of the Authority's "unique local focus and consistent with provisions of its enabling legislation." The Commonwealth Court ultimately sustained the appeals, disagreeing with the Authority's arguments that, as "a unique hybrid agency with a local focus," it should be deemed exempt from statutory rulemaking procedures generally applicable to Commonwealth agencies. According to the court, the applicability of the CDL does not turn on an agency's particular focus; rather, it applies to "all agencies, past, present and future, regardless of their mission." Upon review of the applicable legal authorities and the parties' appellate briefs, the Supreme Court agreed with the Commonwealth Court in sustaining Appellees' appeals.View "Germantown Cab Co. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority" on Justia Law
Metropolitan Taxicab Bd. of Trade v NYC Taxi & Limousine Commn.
This case involved the regulations of the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, limiting rates that could be charged by owners of taxicabs who leased those cabs to drivers. Owners challenged a Commission regulation that prohibited owners from collecting sales tax in addition to the maximum permitted lease rates. The court held that the regulation must be annulled because the Commission had not shown any rational basis for it.View "Metropolitan Taxicab Bd. of Trade v NYC Taxi & Limousine Commn." on Justia Law
Tymar, LLC v. Two Men and a Truck
Appellant Tymar, LLC filed an application with the Nebraska Public Service Commission seeking authority to operate as a common carrier of household goods in intrastate commerce. Appellees, other common carriers in the area, filed protests to Tymar's application. After a hearing, the Commission denied the application, determining that Tymar had failed to establish its prima facie case that it met the standards for approval of its application under the regulatory scheme imposed by Neb. Rev. Stat. 75-301. The district court affirmed. At issue on appeal was whether requests for admissions Tymar tendered to Appellees but which Appellees did not answer should have been deemed admitted under Neb. R. Civ. P. R. 36. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commission erred when it did not give legal effect to the substance of the unanswered requests, and the district court erred as a matter of law when it failed to correct the Commission's rulings regarding these requests for admissions. Remanded with directions to reconsider Tymar's application.View "Tymar, LLC v. Two Men and a Truck" on Justia Law