Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1–16, places certain arbitration agreements on equal footing with all other contracts, requiring courts to enforce such agreements according to their terms. Section 2 provides that the FAA covers “a written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce,” but section 1 states that “nothing” in the FAA “shall apply to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” Singh brought this putative class action on behalf of New Jersey Uber drivers, alleging that Uber misclassified them as independent contractors rather than employees, which resulted in their being deprived of overtime compensation and incurring business expenses for Uber's benefit. Singh opposed a motion to compel arbitration, arguing that, to the extent that he had an agreement with Uber, it fell within the “any other class of workers” portion of section 1. The court dismissed, concluding that clause only extends to transportation workers who transport goods. The Third Circuit disagreed, citing its “longstanding precedent,” to hold that the residual clause of section 1 may extend to a class of transportation workers who transport passengers if they are engaged in interstate commerce or in work so closely related thereto as to be in practical effect part of it. The court remanded for resolution of the engaged-in-interstate-commerce inquiry. View "Singh v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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After a confrontational screening at Philadelphia International Airport in 2006, during which police were called, Pellegrino asserted intentional tort claims against TSA screeners. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the government generally enjoys sovereign immunity for intentional torts committed by federal employees, subject to the “law enforcement proviso” exception, which waives immunity for a subset of intentional torts committed by employees who qualify as “investigative or law enforcement officers,” 28 U.S.C. 2680(h). The Third Circuit first affirmed the dismissal of Pellegrino’s suit, holding that TSA screeners are not “investigative or law enforcement officers.” On rehearing, en banc, the court reinstated the suit. The words of the proviso dictate the result: TSOs are “officer[s] of the United States” empowered to “execute searches” for “violations of Federal law.” View "Pellegrino v. Transportation Safety Administration" on Justia Law

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The Federal Railway Safety Act (FRSA) provides that if railroad carriers retaliate against employees who report safety violations, the aggrieved employee may file a complaint with OSHA within 180 days after the alleged retaliation, 49 U.S.C. 20109(d)(2)(A)(ii). The Secretary of Labor then has 210 days to issue a final decision. If the Secretary takes too long, the employee may file suit. Guerra, a Conrail conductor and brakeman, alleged that Conrail urged him to ignore safety regulations. When he refused, Conrail threatened him and eliminated incidental perks of his job. Guerra reported this to Conrail’s compliance office. He says he was told that if he kept reporting safety issues, there would be “undesirable consequences.” Soon after Guerra filed complaints about allegedly defective braking systems, a train Guerra was operating failed to brake properly and ran through a railroad switch. On April 6, 2016, Conrail notified Guerra that he would be suspended. On May 10, Guerra’s attorney, Katz, allegedly filed a FRSA complaint. Receiving no response, on November 28, Katz followed up with OSHA by email. OSHA notified Guerra that his claim was dismissed as untimely because OSHA first received Guerra’s complaint 237 days after the retaliation. Guerra attempted to invoke the common-law mailbox rule’s presumption of delivery. The district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Third Circuit affirmed on other grounds. FRSA’s 180-day limitations period is a non-jurisdictional claim-processing rule. Guerra’s claim still fails because he has not produced enough reliable evidence to invoke the common-law mailbox rule. View "Guerra v. Consolidated Rail Corp" on Justia Law

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The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission sets and collects Turnpike tolls. Act 44 (2007) authorized the Commission to increase tolls and required it to make annual payments for 50 years to the PennDOT Trust Fund. Act 89 (2013) continued to permit toll increases but lowered the annual PennDOT payments. Plaintiffs, individuals and members of groups who pay Turnpike tolls, assert that since the enactment of Act 44, tolls have increased more than 200% and that the current cost for the heaviest vehicles to cross from New Jersey to Ohio exceeds $1800. Pennsylvania’s Auditor General found that the annual “costly toll increases place an undue burden” on Pennsylvanians and that “the average turnpike traveler will ... seek alternative toll-free routes.” More than 90 percent of Act 44/89 payments—approximately $425 million annually— benefit “non-Turnpike road and bridge projects and transit operations.” Plaintiffs sued, alleging violations of the dormant Commerce Clause and their right to travel. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, 105 Stat. 1914 permits state authorities to use the tolls for non-Turnpike purposes, so the collection and use of the tolls do not implicate the Commerce Clause. Plaintiffs have not alleged that their right to travel to, from, and within Pennsylvania has been deterred, so their right to travel has not been infringed. View "Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission" on Justia Law

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Adams Outdoor Advertising sought a permit to install a billboard near an interchange on U.S. Route 22 in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation denied the permit because Pennsylvania law prohibits “off-premise” billboards within 500 feet of a highway interchange. Adams challenged the provision as too vague and under the First Amendment because there is no time limit for PennDOT’s decisions on applications. The district court ruled in Adams’ favor on the time-limit claim and entered an injunction barring the enforcement of the permit requirement until PennDOT establishes reasonable time limits on its permit decisions. The court dismissed Adams’ vagueness challenge and First Amendment scrutiny challenge. The Third Circuit agreed that the permit requirement violates the First Amendment because it lacks a reasonable time limit for permit determinations and that the Interchange Prohibition communicates clearly what it prohibits and is not vague. The court reversed in part. While the Interchange Prohibition is not subject to strict scrutiny, the record is insufficient to establish the required reasoning for the prohibition. View "Adams Outdoor Advertising Ltd v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Delivery drivers filed a putative class action, alleging that AEX misclassified them as independent contractors when they are actually employees under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (NJWHL), and the New Jersey Wage Payment Law (NJWPL). AEX argued that the Drivers’ claims are preempted by the Federal Aviation Authorization Administration Act of 1994 (FAAAA), 49 U.S.C. 14501- 06. The district court denied AEX’s motion and certified the order for interlocutory appeal. The Third Circuit affirmed. The FAAAA does not preempt the New Jersey law for determining employment status for the purposes of NJWHL and NJWPL. AEX has not shown that New Jersey’s "ABC classification" test has a “significant impact” on Congress’ deregulatory efforts with respect to motor carrier businesses, nor are the NJWHL and NJWPL—typical state wage and hour laws—the kinds of preexisting state regulations with which Congress was concerned when it passed the FAAAA. New Jersey’s ABC classification test has neither a direct, nor an indirect, nor a significant effect on carrier prices, routes, or services. View "Bedoya v. American Eagle Express, Inc" on Justia Law

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The contracts between the Drivers and Joseph Cory, a motor carrier business, purported to establish that the Drivers would work as independent contractors. The Drivers claim the realities of the relationship made them employees under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA), 820 ILCS 115/1–115/15. The contracts expressly permitted Joseph Cory to take “chargebacks” for any expense or liability that the Drivers had agreed to bear, including costs for “insurance, any related insurance claims, truck rentals, . . . uniforms,” and “damaged goods,” from the Drivers’ paychecks without obtaining contemporaneous consent. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of Joseph Cory’s motion to dismiss the Drivers’ suit. The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), 49 U.S.C. 14501–06, does not preempt the IWPCA. Wage laws like the IWPCA are traditional state regulations and part of the backdrop that all business owners must face. IWPCA does not single out trucking firms and its impact is too tenuous, remote, and peripheral to fall within the scope of the FAAAA preemption clause. IWPCA’s limited regulation of ministerial aspects of the manner in which employees are paid does not have a significant impact on carrier rates, routes, or services of a motor carrier and does not frustrate the FAAAA’s deregulatory objectives. View "Lupian v. Joseph Cory Holdings LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, licensed taxi and limousine operators, sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging an agreement between Newark and Uber as violating their rights under the Takings, Due Process, and Equal Protection Clauses. In order to operate in Newark without taxi medallions or commercial driver’s licenses, setting its own rates, Uber agreed to pay the city $1 million per year for 10 years; to provide $1.5 million in liability insurance for each of its drivers; to have a third-party provider conduct background checks on its drivers. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The agreement places the plaintiffs in an “undoubtedly difficult position” but the situation cannot be remedied through constitutional claims. Even if plaintiffs have a legally cognizable property interest in the medallions themselves, they remain in possession of and able to use their taxi medallions to conduct business. The decrease in the market value of the medallions is not sufficient to constitute a cognizable property interest necessary to state a claim under the Takings Clause. The city controls the number of medallions in circulation and maintains the ability to flood the market with medallions. With respect to equal protection, it is rational for the city to determine that customers require greater protections before accepting a ride from a taxi on the street than before accepting a ride where they are given the relevant information in advance. View "Newark Cab Association v. City of Newark" on Justia Law

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After a confrontational screening at Philadelphia International Airport in 2006, during which police were called, Pellegrino asserted intentional tort claims against TSA screeners. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the government generally enjoys sovereign immunity for intentional torts committed by federal employees, subject to the “law enforcement proviso” exception, which waives immunity for a subset of intentional torts committed by employees who qualify as “investigative or law enforcement officers,” 28 U.S.C. 2680(h). The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Pellegrino’s suit, holding that TSA screeners are not “investigative or law enforcement officers” under the law enforcement proviso. They “typically are not law enforcement officers and do not act as such.” The court noted that the head of the TSA, the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, has specific authority to designate employees to serve as “law enforcement officer[s]” 49 U.S.C. 114(p)(1). An employee so designated may carry a firearm, make arrests, and seek and execute warrants for arrest or seizure of evidence. Screening locations are staffed by both screening officers and law enforcement officers. View "Pellegrino v. United States Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law

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Philadelphia taxicabs were required to have a medallion and a certificate of public convenience, which required that vehicles be insured and in proper condition, and mandated that drivers be paid the prevailing minimum wage, be proficient in English, and have appropriate drivers’ licenses. In 2014, 1610 medallions were each worth about $545,000. Uber began operating in Philadelphia without securing medallions or certificates, providing an app to schedule and pay for a ride. Uber does not own or assume responsibility for the vehicles, nor does it hire drivers. A 2016 Pennsylvania law approved Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) using digital apps. TNCs must obtain licenses and comply with insurance and safety standards but set their own fares. Medallion taxicab companies comply with established rates, minimum wages, and have a limited number of vehicles. Nearly 1200 Philadelphia medallion taxicab drivers left their companies to drive for Uber. Medallion taxi rides reduced by about 30 percent. The value of each medallion dropped to approximately $80,000. Taxicab drivers sued under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Inundating the market with Uber vehicles, even if it eliminated competitors, was not anticompetitive; it bolstered competition by offering customers lower prices, more availability, and a high-tech alternative to customary practices. Uber’s ability to operate at a lower cost is not anticompetitive. Uber’s business model does not reflect specific intent to monopolize. Plaintiffs also failed to allege antitrust standing. View "Philadelphia Taxi Association, Inc. v. Uber Technologies Inc" on Justia Law