Justia Transportation Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Emswiler v. CSX Transp. Inc.
Emswiler sued his employer, CSX, a railroad, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen after his seniority on the roster of train engineers was adjusted. Emswiler alleged breach of collective bargaining agreement, breach of duty of fair representation, and disability discrimination under Ohio law. The district court granted defendants summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court correctly determined it could not reach the merits of claims for breach of CBA and disability discrimination due to his failure to pursue arbitral mechanisms mandated by the Railway Labor Act, which governs disputes between management and labor in the railroad industry, 45 U.S.C. 151, 153. The RLA divides disputes into two categories: Major disputes concern the formation of collective bargaining agreements, whereas minor disputes deal with the interpretation of existing CBAs. This is a minor dispute. Emswiler’s claim for breach of duty of fair representation lacked merit. View "Emswiler v. CSX Transp. Inc." on Justia Law
Mason & Dixon Lines Inc. v. Steudle
Access to the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario necessitated traversing city streets. The state contracted with the Company, which owns the Bridge, to construct new approaches from interstate roads. The contract specified separate jobs for the state and the Company. In 2010, the state obtained a state court order, finding the Company in breach of contract and requiring specific performance. The Company sought an order to open ramps constructed by the state, asserting that this was necessary to complete its work. The court denied the motion and held Company officials in contempt. In a 2012 settlement, the court ordered the Company to relinquish its responsibilities to the state and establish a $16 million fund to ensure completion. Plaintiffs, trucking companies that use the bridge, sought an injunction requiring the state to immediately open the ramps. The district court dismissed claims under the dormant Commerce Clause, the motor carriers statute, 49 U.S.C. 14501(c), and the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, 49 U.S.C. 31114(a)(2). The Sixth Circuit affirmed. For purposes of the Commerce Clause and statutory claims, the state is acting in a proprietary capacity and, like the private company, is a market participant when it joins the bridge company in constructing ramps. View "Mason & Dixon Lines Inc. v. Steudle" on Justia Law
Dugle v. Norfolk So. Ry. Co.
Deputy Dugle's police cruiser was struck by a Norfolk train as he left firearms training at the county range. Dugle spent 11 days in a coma, suffered broken bones, and incurred traumatic brain injury. The range is accessible by a gravel drive that crosses a farm and the tracks. There is no evidence that the county maintains the drive; it is not shown on the official map. Despite signs instructing crews to sound the horn on both approaches the crew failed to do so. Dugle had slowed as he approached the crossbuck sign with the words "railroad" and "crossing," but the parties dispute by how much and when. A camera on the train demonstrates that the cruiser was visible to the crew for about 4.25 seconds before impact. Norfolk claimed that it maintains its 30-foot right-of-way in compliance with Kentucky law and that any obstructions were on private property. The district court granted summary judgment for Norfolk, holding that the crossing was not ultrahazardous because Dugle could have avoided the collision by stopping at the sign. The Sixth Circuit reversed, noting that no Kentucky case has concluded that sight lines of over 400 feet indicated that a crossing is safe as a matter of law. View "Dugle v. Norfolk So. Ry. Co." on Justia Law
Hampton v. R.J. Corman R.R. Switching Co.
In 2005, plaintiff’s car collided with a train owned by defendant. The train was stopped on the tracks in Louisville, Kentucky, blocking a crossing. Plaintiff never hit her brakes and slammed into the side of the red boxcar at 40 to 45 miles per hour. She survived the crash, claimed that warning lights were not flashing and that she never saw the train until the instant before the impact, and sued in state court for negligence and failure to comply with the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 45 U.S.C. 421, and other federal laws, including 49 U.S.C. 20134, by failing to properly maintain, employ, use and install proper warning devices and procedures at railway crossings. Defendant removed the case to federal court, where it was granted summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit vacated for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction. Although plaintiff never moved for remand, courts are required to consider jurisdiction. The cited federal regulations do not create or imply a cause of action. View "Hampton v. R.J. Corman R.R. Switching Co." on Justia Law
Nettles-Nickerson v. Free
Plaintiff was arrested after police officers found her intoxicated, sitting in the driver’s seat of her running, but legally parked, Hummer. She was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, but the state trial court dismissed her case, finding that she was not "operating" her Hummer as that term is defined under Michigan law. Plaintiff sued her arresting officers, arguing, among other things, that they unconstitutionally detained her without reasonable suspicion and arrested her without probable cause. The district court held that the officers had qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. There was a reasonable basis to believe that plaintiff was operating her Hummer while intoxicated, and was therefore violating Michigan law. View "Nettles-Nickerson v. Free" on Justia Law
Roquemore v. ER Express
Decedent died when a 28-ton beam struck an overpass, fell off of the trailer transporting it, and crushed the cab of his truck, which was on the highway behind the trailer. The district court granted motions for summary judgment in favor of companies responsible for loading the beam on the trailer, hiring the trucking company, and obtaining permits. The court construed Michigan Compiled Laws 257.719(1) as forbidding recovery from anyone other than the owner of a vehicle that collides with a lawfully established bridge. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The estate did not bring suit directly under the statute. In a common-law negligence case, all principles concerning common-law liability and defenses apply. The statute may imply that others who pay may be able to shift their liability to an owner, not that they can have no liability in the first instance. The fact that liability for all damages and injury is fixed on the owner of the vehicle even where concurrent or intervening acts of negligence precipitate the accident, does not imply that tortfeasors responsible for those concurrent or intervening acts cannot also be liable. View "Roquemore v. ER Express" on Justia Law
Bondurant v. Air Line Pilots Ass’n, Int’l
In Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the airline extracted concessions that resulted in an approximate 40 percent wage cut for pilots in return for an $888 million claim in bankruptcy to be disbursed as stock shares. The union first suggested that a pilot's share should reflect time that the pilot worked during the 85-month concessionary period, but ultimately adopted a cutoff date for determining which pilots would receive full shares. The cutoff assumed that any pilot employed on the effective date of the Restructuring Agreement would remain employed through its termination four years later. Any pilot who left before the date would receive a share based the number of months that the pilot worked during the concessionary period. All participants in the Early Retirement Program retired after the cutoff date. Plaintiffs, retirees who reached mandatory retirement age and left before the cutoff, received shares at least $100,000 less than expected. The union rejected appeals. The district court granted summary judgment to the union. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting claims that the union breached its duty of fair representation, Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 15, and discriminated based on age, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 623(c)(1), and Mich. Comp. Laws 37.2204(a). View "Bondurant v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, Int'l" on Justia Law
Yeschick v. Mineta
Plaintiff, an air traffic controller 1974-1981, was fired by President Reagan and subject to a ban on rehiring until 1993, when he applied for rehiring. He had moved and did not update his contact information. He was not rehired and, in 2002, brought a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621–634against the Secretary, who oversees operations of the Federal Aviation Administration. Plaintiff failed to respond to both the district court's motions deadline and the Secretary’s motion for summary judgment. After the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Secretary, plaintiff filed Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment, claiming that his attorney did not receive electronic notices of case filings due to a change of his email address. The court denid the motion, citing an affirmative duty to monitor the docket and maintain a current e-mail address, as well as the prejudice the Secretary would suffer were the motion to be granted. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, also rejecting the case on the merits. View "Yeschick v. Mineta" on Justia Law
Hirsch v. CSX Transp., Inc.
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
Nat’l Air Traffic Controllers Ass’n v. Sec’y of the Dep’t. of Transp.
In 1993, the FAA decided to privatize all Level I air traffic control towers. About 1500 controllers were forced to leave the field, be trained to operate higher level towers, or secure employment with the private contractors. Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76 prohibits the federal government from performing an activity that could be performed for less cost by the private sector. Before privatizing a function, an agency must determine whether that function is inherently governmental or commercial. A governmental function must be performed by government employees. The district court first dismissed, but, on remand, instructed the FAA to undergo Circular A-76 analysis. The FAA continued to privatize towers and controllers again brought suit. The district court again remanded to the FAA for analysis, but refused to terminate private contracts already in place. The court later granted the FAA partial summary judgment, based on a 2003 amendment to 49 U.S.C. 47124, indicating that work in Level I towers is not an inherently governmental function, then dismissed remaining claims for lack of standing. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Every tower privatized in the 1993 program fit within the section 47124(b)(3) mandate. View "Nat'l Air Traffic Controllers Ass'n v. Sec'y of the Dep't. of Transp." on Justia Law