Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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Coffey was employed by the Railway as a locomotive engineer. In 2012, a train that Coffey was operating derailed; a drug test revealed the presence of amphetamines in Coffey’s system. Coffey was permitted to continue working, but he was subject to follow-up drug testing for five years. In 2016, a test showed the presence of amphetamines and codeine. Coffey explained that he had prescriptions for Adderall, which he took for ADHD, and codeine (Tylenol #3), which he took for a back condition. Railway requested that Coffey provide medical records. Six weeks later, Coffey ruptured his Achilles tendon and took medical leave for 10 months. When his physician cleared him to return to work, Railway again requested the records it had previously requested. After two more demands, Railway received some records but was unsatisfied because they failed to include specifically requested information such as medication side effects. In anticipation of a disciplinary hearing, Coffey submitted approximately 400 pages of medical records. Upon determining that those records still did not address much of the required information, Railway terminated Coffey’s employment.The EEOC concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that Railway’s demands violated the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12112(a). The district court and Fourth Circuit rejected Coffey’s subsequent suit. Railway made a lawful request under the ADA. Its inquiries were related to Coffey’s job and were required by federal regulation. Complying with federal regulations is, by definition, a business necessity. View "Coffey v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co." 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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Turner, a Wisconsin resident, filed a putative class action against Costa, an Italian cruise operator, and its American subsidiary, alleging that their negligence contributed to an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the Costa Luminosa during his transatlantic voyage beginning on March 5, 2020. The Luminosa had evacuated a passenger, who subsequently died of COVID-19, from a cruise immediately preceding Turner’s cruise. Costa told passengers that the ship was safe. It did not hire any experts to verify that the ship had been sufficiently cleaned and allegedly failed to refuse boarding to individuals who had COVID-19 symptoms or had traveled to high-risk areas. On March 8, the Luminosa had docked to transport passengers with COVID-19 symptoms to the hospital but did not inform passengers of those circumstances, When passengers disembarked on March 19, 36 of the 75 passengers tested positive for COVID-19. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Turner’s complaint on forum non conveniens grounds. Turner's passage ticket contract included a forum selection clause requiring that all claims associated with his cruise be litigated in Genoa, Italy. Forum selection clauses are presumptively valid and enforceable; Turner failed to defeat the presumption by showing that the clause was induced by fraud or overreaching, that he would be deprived of his day in court because of inconvenience or unfairness, the chosen law would deprive him of a remedy or enforcement of the clause would contravene public policy.’ View "Turner v. Costa Crociere S.P.A." on Justia Law

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Federal regulations require commercial truck drivers to undergo annual physicals to be “medically certified as physically qualified." A driver is not physically qualified if he has a clinical diagnosis of a respiratory dysfunction likely to interfere with his ability to drive a commercial motor vehicle safely. Respiratory dysfunction includes sleep apnea.Allman was diagnosed with apnea after a sleep study and was instructed to wear a CPAP machine when sleeping in his truck. Allman complained about the device, which was remotely monitored. Allman was suspended twice for noncompliance. Allman independently completed a second sleep study, which showed that Allman did not have sleep apnea. Allman stopped wearing the CPAP and obtained a new DOT certification card without another examination. Walmart instructed Allman to participate in another sleep study because the doctor who performed Allman’s independent study was not board certified. A third study resulted in a second diagnosis of sleep apnea. Allman refused to wear the CPAP machine. Rather than taking the conflicting sleep studies to a DOT medical examiner, Allman resigned and filed suit, asserting discrimination based on perceived disability and retaliation under Ohio law.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of both claims. Walmart offered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its CPAP requirement; Allman failed to rebut that reason as pretextual. Walmart’s CPAP requirement was not an unsafe working condition but was a disability accommodation meant to promote public safety and to ensure compliance with federal law. View "Allman v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a seaman, contracted lymphoma and sued his former employer, a tugboat operator, seeking maintenance and cure. The doctrine of maintenance and cure concerns the vessel owner’s obligation to provide food, lodging, and medical services to a seaman injured while serving the ship. Undisputed evidence established that the seaman had lymphoma during his maritime service, but the disease did not present any symptoms at all until after his service. The district court granted summary judgment for the tugboat operator. The Second Circuit reversed. Because the seaman’s illness indisputably occurred during his service, he is entitled to maintenance and cure regardless of when he began to show symptoms. View "Messier v. Bouchard Transp." on Justia Law

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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

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Following a 2007 train derailment and three-day fire that allegedly exposed a small Ohio town to cancer-causing agents, plaintiffs sought damages on behalf of a putative class. Plaintiffs' expert testified that the normal background level of dioxin is four parts per trillion and that the range within area homes was from 11.7 to 274 ppt. A doctor testified about increased risk of cancer. The district court granted summary judgment for the train company, finding that plaintiffs had not established general or specific causation and, as a matter of law, any increased risk of cancer or other diseases was too insignificant to warrant the court's ordering a lengthy period of medical monitoring. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting the absence of conclusive medical evidence that plaintiffs faced even a one-in-a-million increased risk of cancer. View "Hirsch v. CSX Transp., Inc." on Justia Law