Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
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Skidmore’s West Virginia home sits 70-80 feet west of Norfolk’s railroad track, across Loop Creek. In 2001, Norfolk installed a culvert to drain surface water from its tracks into Loop Creek near Skidmore’s home. According to Skidmore, the water streaming from the culvert caused soil erosion and threatened the foundation of her home. Skidmore sued Norfolk in state court, alleging negligence, private nuisance, and trespass.Norfolk obtained a survey and deeds revealing that, in 1903, Norfolk obtained a right of way extending across Loop Creek, over part of the land on the other side. Part of Skidmore’s house sits atop the land over which the right of way runs. Norfolk asserted an affirmative defense that Skidmore lacked standing because she had no right to exclude Norfolk from the land. Skidmore amended her complaint to add claims for adverse possession and prescriptive easement (quiet title claims). Norfolk removed the case to federal court, arguing that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act completely preempts the quiet title claims. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.The Fourth Circuit vacated. While 49 U.S.C. 10501(b) “entirely displaces” Skidmore’s quiet title claims, a conclusion that complete preemption applies means that the court has jurisdiction over ostensibly state-law claims. On remand, the court must convert Skidmore’s quiet title claims into claims under the Termination Act and may permit Skidmore to amend her complaint to clarify the scope of her Termination Act claims. View "Skidmore v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment to the City and the Foundation in an action alleging discriminatory taxation in violation of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976. The court applied the factors in San Juan Cellular Tel. Co. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 967 F.2d 683, 685 (1st Cir. 1992), and held that the City's storm water management charge was a fee, rather than a tax, and therefore was not subject to the Act's requirements. In this case, the charge was imposed by the City's legislative body, and the charge was part of a comprehensive regulatory scheme. View "Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. City of Roanoke" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' constitutional and statutory challenges to Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority's (MWAA) ability to use toll revenues to fund projects enhancing access to Dulles airport. The court applied the standard from Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, 513 U.S. 374 (1995), and held that MWAA was not a federal entity. The court held that MWAA's structure did not violate the non-delegation principle because MWAA exercises no power assigned elsewhere by the Constitution; MWAA did not violate the Guarantee Clause because it did not deny any state a republican form of government; and the court rejected plaintiff's claim that MWAA's use of toll road funds to build metro service to Dulles violates the command that funds only be spent on "capital and operating costs of the Metropolitan Washington Airports" and agreed with the Secretary of Transportation's interpretation of the Lease and Transfer Act. View "Kerpen v. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority" on Justia Law