Justia Transportation Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
CSX Transportation, Inc. v. General Mills, Inc.
CSX Transportation, Inc. is a freight railroad company. General Mills, Inc. operates a cereal processing plant in Georgia near one of CSX’s rail lines. A small connecting railroad connects CSX’s main rail line to General Mills’s plant. A contract between CSX and General Mills governs the use of the sidetrack.A General Mills employee suffered severe injuries while working on the sidetrack and then sued CSX for negligence. A jury found CSX liable, and CSX sought indemnification from General Mills, citing a contractual provision providing General Mills was required to indemnify CSX—regardless of whether CSX alone was responsible. The district court dismissed one of CSX’s breach-of-contract claims and granted General Mills summary judgment on the other.The Eleventh Circuit found that, under the parties’ agreement, General Mills was not required to indemnify CSX if CSX was solely negligent. However, the court disagreed with the district court that Georgia's vouchment doctrine barred CSX from litigating the issue of General Mills’s negligence. Thus, the Eleventh Circuit remanded for the district court to determine if General Mills was at least partially at fault for the injury. If so, then General Mills must indemnify CSX for at least a portion of the settlement and related expenses. View "CSX Transportation, Inc. v. General Mills, Inc." on Justia Law
Professional Airline Flight Control Association v. Spirit Airlines, Inc.
The Professional Airline Flight Control Association complained that Spirit is attempting to change its agreement. Spirit responded that its unilateral decision to open a second operations control center is permitted by the parties’ agreement. The district court agreed with Spirit that this dispute is minor and dismissed the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. Section 151 et seq., divides labor disputes into two categories: disputes over the interpretation of an existing agreement are “minor” and resolved exclusively through binding arbitration, and disputes over proposed changes to an agreement or over a new agreement are “major” and addressed through bargaining and mediation. During a major dispute, district courts have subject-matter jurisdiction to enjoin violations of the status quo. But district courts ordinarily lack jurisdiction over minor disputes. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal. View "Professional Airline Flight Control Association v. Spirit Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Palm Beach County, et al. v. Federal Aviation Administration
Intervenor is a former commercial pilot who now flies a small Cessna jet for his own personal use. The intervenor landed his Cessna at the Lantana Airport. A Palm Beach County ordinance prohibits “pure turbo-jet aircraft” and cargo-carrying aircraft that weigh more than 12,500 pounds from using Lantana Airport, and Palm Beach County enforces the ordinance in a way that actually bans all jets, not just the “pure turbo” variety. The intervenor complained to the Federal Aviation Administration that the ordinance’s jet restriction violated a grant assurance the County had made to the FAA in exchange for federal airport improvement money. The FAA agreed with the Intervenor and ordered the County to rescind the restriction. The County and the City of Atlantis, which borders Lantana Airport, have petitioned us for review of the FAA’s final agency decision. The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition for review. The court explained that the FAA has exclusive authority over our national navigable airspace, which means it’s responsible for “developing plans and policy . . . necessary to ensure the safety of aircraft and the efficient use” of that space. It “may modify or revoke an assignment of airspace when required in the public interest.” As long as any change in the FAA’s position on an airport restriction isn’t based on an impermissible bias, it has the authority to make that change. The Associate Administrator’s conclusion that Lantana Airport’s jet restriction violates Grant Assurance wasn’t arbitrary and capricious but instead was supported by substantial evidence. View "Palm Beach County, et al. v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law
Savage Services Corp. v. United States
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
Cavalieri v. Avior Airlines C.A.
Plaintiffs purchased tickets for Defendant’s commercial flights from Miami to Venezuela. Plaintiffs allege that their ticket prices reflected the “fully-paid contract” and that Defendant failed to sufficiently disclose any other fees required for passage. When checking in for their flights at the airport, however, Defendant informed Plaintiffs that they had to pay an additional $80 “Exit Fee” before being allowed to board their flights. Plaintiffs filed a breach of contract putative class action.The district court dismissed the suit, concluding that the Airline Deregulation Act preempted Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim because it related to the price of the airline ticket and the Act’s preemption provision identifies actions relating to price as preempted. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, first holding that the Plaintiffs plausibly alleged facts that would establish diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim seeks merely to enforce the parties’ private agreements regarding the cost of passage and does not invoke state laws or regulations to alter the agreed-upon price. The statute, 49 U.S.C. 41713(b)(1), provides: “[A] State . . . may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier..” The suit falls within the category of cases protected from preemption by Supreme Court precedent. View "Cavalieri v. Avior Airlines C.A." on Justia Law
CSX Corp. v. United States
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
Turner v. Costa Crociere S.P.A.
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
Goodloe v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD.
Puchalski, a Wisconsin citizen, took a cruise aboard an RCL ship. While the ship was docked in Juneau, Alaska, he experienced shortness of breath and went to the ship’s infirmary. The ship’s physician prescribed medications. Puchalski returned to his quarters, then collapsed. He was taken to a hospital and died days later. Puchalski’s estate sued RCL, a Liberian corporation headquartered in Florida, alleging negligent medical care and treatment. Florida law would have authorized non-pecuniary damages for loss of companionship and mental pain and suffering. Wisconsin law would not. The parties agreed to address the issue only if a damages award made it necessary. A jury awarded $3,384,073.22 in damages, $3,360,000 of which represented non-pecuniary losses. The district court denied RCL’s Motion for Remittitur, finding that Florida law governed damages.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. General maritime law does not allow non-pecuniary damages for wrongful death, but the Supreme Court has held that state law may supplement general maritime law for damages in suits for deaths that occur within state territorial waters. In determining that Florida law applied, the court applied the “Lauritzen” factors: the place of the wrongful act, domiciles of the injured and of the defendant, place of contract, law of the forum, and location of the defendant’s base of operations. Wisconsin’s interests would not be served by applying Wisconsin law to this case. Applying Florida law, however, would further Florida’s interests in wrongful death suits involving its domiciliaries. View "Goodloe v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD." on Justia Law
CSX Corp. v. United States
The Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA) does not impose a tax on a railroad's stock transfers to its employees nor a railroad's provision of relocation benefits to its employees. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further consideration of the statutory requirements and the calculation of CSX's taxable compensation. The court held that the Supreme Court's decision in Wisconsin Cent. Ltd. v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2067 (2018), was dispositive of the stock issue. Under Wisconsin Central, the phrase "money remuneration" in the RRTA refers only to currency or a medium of exchange. Wisconsin Central, as well as the court's plain meaning of the statute, guided the court's decision regarding the relocation benefits. View "CSX Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law
Truesdell v. Thomas
Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for violation of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2721-2725. The Eleventh Circuit held that the DPPA permitted punitive damages against municipal agencies; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it assessed liquidated damages for both occasions when Defendant Thomas accessed plaintiff's information; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to certify a class action; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to grant a new trial; and the district court did not err when it instructed the jury that punitive damages should bear a reasonable relationship to compensatory damages. View "Truesdell v. Thomas" on Justia Law