Justia Transportation Law Opinion Summaries

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On June 16, 2010, crossing gates were down at a public railway-roadway crossing -- a position that normally indicated: (1) a train was approaching the crossing; (2) a railway was performing maintenance; or (3) they were malfunctioning. As Marvin Johnson, Jr. approached the railroad crossing driving his 28-foot-long truck with attached dumpster, he saw that the gates were down but cars were driving around the gates and over the crossing. Johnson followed suit, driving around the crossing gates into the path of an oncoming train on which Winford Hartry was serving as engineer. Hartry was injured as a result of the collision. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to consider whether Winford Hartry’s claim under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”) was precluded by regulations issued pursuant to the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”). Because the Supreme Court concluded that FRSA and its regulations did not preclude Hartry’s FELA claim, it affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. Hartry et al." on Justia Law

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The 1986 Bay Area County Traffic and Transportation Funding Act (Pub. Util. Code 131000) established a framework for counties and cities within the nine-county San Francisco Bay area to collectively develop and implement traffic and transportation projects and authorized the voters in those counties to create a county transportation authority to implement a retail transactions and use tax for funding a local transportation plan. San Francisco voters approved the creation of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA). Urban submitted public records requests to the SFCTA under the California Public Records Act (Gov. Code 6250) and the Sunshine Ordinance. SFCTA claimed it was not subject to the Sunshine Ordinance. Urban filed suit. After the parties resolved the outstanding records request issue, the trial court concluded the request for declaratory relief was not moot “due to the SFCTA’s position that it is not subject to the Sunshine Ordinance, which is sufficient to establish an actual controversy” then concluded the SFCTA is a state agency, exempt from the Ordinance. The court of appeal affirmed. Local public agencies are distinct from the cities and counties they serve. While the SFCTA may be classified as a local agency based on the scope of its functions, it remains an agency of the state. The Sunshine Ordinance indicates that it is limited to city agencies. View "SF Urban Forest Coalition v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Union Pacific in an action alleging that the company negligently contributed to a fatal railroad collision. In this case, the trucks in front of a caravan had left insufficient room for the last truck to clear the Oil & Gas Crossing. The last truck stopped on the tracks where, seconds later, a Union Pacific train collided with it, killing all three individuals inside. The court found plaintiffs' claim that Union Pacific breached a duty to provide adequate visual warning devices at the Oil & Gas Crossing unpersuasive; the Crossing was not a "dangerous trap;" and, although a jury could reasonably conclude that Union Pacific had a duty to plaintiffs to protect against the unique hazard presented by the Crossing, plaintiffs have failed to show why the signs Union Pacific installed were insufficient to fulfill this duty. The court also held that plaintiffs' claims that Union Pacific was negligent in operating the locomotive horn was either preempted by federal law or otherwise unsupported by sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment. View "Ryder v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing for want of jurisdiction under the Tax Injunction Act (TIA) this lawsuit asking that the district court enjoin the collection of certain Rhode Island tolls as violative of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, holding that the TIA's prohibition stating that district courts shall not enjoin levy or collection of "any tax under State law" where a remedy may be had in state courts is inapplicable to the Rhode Island tolls. A Rhode Island statute authorized the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to collect from tractor-trailers certain tolls in order to pay for replacement, reconstruction, maintenance, and operation of Rhode Island bridges. Plaintiff trucking entities brought this lawsuit. The district court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction under the TIA. The First Circuit reversed, holding the the tolls in this case were not a "tax" under the statute. View "American Trucking Ass'n v. Alviti" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the Jackson Hole Airport Board and dismissing Appellants' petition for declaratory judgment challenging the validity of an asset purchase agreement between the Board and Jackson Hole Aviation, holding that airport boards have the statutory authority to issue revenue bonds to fund the purchase of intangible property, including goodwill. Appellants were two entities interested in providing services at Jackson Hole Airport and individuals dissatisfied with the Airport's current services. Appellants brought this action claiming that the purchase agreement between the Board and Jackson Hole Aviation, the current service provider at the Airport, exceeded the Board's statutory authority because the Board could not acquire intangible assets using revenue bond funding. The district court concluded that the term "other property" in Wyo. Stat. Ann. 10-5-101(a) authorized the use of revenue bonds for purchases of both tangible and intangible property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 10-5-101(a) authorized purchases of both tangible and intangible property and that the district court correctly determined that goodwill is intangible property included in the term "other property" found in section 10-5-101(a). View "Herrick v. Jackson Hole Airport Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) finding that Trulargo, LLC had been unlawfully operating as a common carrier by motor vehicle and requiring it to cease such activities until it obtains a permit therefore, holding that the PSC did not err by determining Trulargo to be a common carrier and that Trulargo was required to obtain the PSC's approval before engaging in, or continuing, such activities. On appeal, Trulargo argued that the PSC erred by ruling that it was operating as a common carrier and by improperly regulating Trulargo's roll-off container rental business and the costs it charged for such service. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Trulargo's operations constituted those of a common carrier by motor vehicle such that it was required to obtain a certificate of convenience and necessity to continue its activities; and (2) Trulargo's roll-off container rental and retrieval activities were squarely within the definition of a common carrier by motor vehicle, and therefore, the PSC had the authority to regulate Trulargo's business. View "Trulargo, LLC v. Public Service Commission of West Virginia" on Justia Law

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Road Gear Truck Equipment, LLC ("Road Gear"), a corporation based in Franklin County, petitions this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Marshall Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Road Gear's motion to transfer the underlying action to the Franklin Circuit Court and to enter an order transferring the action. Road Gear manufactures trucking equipment, including "cab guards" designed to prevent passengers in tractor-trailer trucks from being injured by shifting loads. Vernon Dement was operating a tractor trailer pulling a load of logs in Madison County, Alabama. While traveling, Dement's truck over turned on a curve in the road. The cargo crashed into the passenger compartment, crushing Dement to death inside the vehicle, and injuring his wife Deborah Dement, who was a passenger in the truck. Deborah filed suit in Marshall County on behalf of herself and in her capacity as the personal representative and administrator of the estate of her husband against Road Gear and fictitiously named defendants. Dement alleged that her injuries and the death of her husband were caused by Road Gear's negligence and wantonness and that Road Gear was liable under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine ("the AEMLD"). Dement alleged in her complaint that venue was proper in Marshall County because she resided in Marshall County and Road Gear "does business in Marshall County." The Alabama Supreme Court determined FleetPride was Road Gear's "agent" in Marshall County for purposes of determining venue, and that Road Gear failed to show that it did not regularly do business in Marshall County at the time the suit was filed. Therefore, the trial court did not err in denying Road Gear's motion to transfer the action to Franklin County. View "Ex parte Road Gear Truck Equipment, LLC." on Justia Law

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First Student, Inc., a school bus contractor, sought to reverse a Court of Appeals decision to affirm dismissal of its business and occupation ("B&O") tax refund action. At issue was whether First Student's transporting of students qualified as transporting persons "for hire" such that it made First Student subject to the public utility tax ("PUT") rather than the general B&O tax. The Washington Supreme Court found the meaning of "for hire" was ambiguous as used in the PUT, but resolved the ambiguity in favor of the long-standing interpretation that school buses were excluded from the definitions of "motor transportation business" and "urban transportation business" under RCW 82.16.010(6) and (12). The Court found that WAC 458-20-180 was a valid interpretation of the statute, and affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "First Student, Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Texas Secretary of State and the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, alleging that the DPS System violates the Equal Protection Clause and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment declaring defendants in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and the NVRA, holding that plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to pursue their claims. The court held that plaintiffs have not established a substantial risk that they will attempt to update their voter registrations using the DPS System and be injured by their inability to do so. Therefore, plaintiffs have not established an injury in fact sufficient to confer standing to pursue declaratory and injunctive relief. Furthermore, the capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-review doctrine was not implicated by plaintiffs' claims. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's injunction and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint. View "Stringer v. Whitley" on Justia Law

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In May 2013, a clear and sunny day, William Scott, a driver for Mullen Trucking 2005 Ltd., was transporting an oversize load on Interstate 5 from Canada to Vancouver, Washington. Scott's truck had a pilot vehicle driven by Tammy Detray. Along the route was the Skagit River Bridge. As they entered and crossed the bridge in the right lane, Detray was distracted, talking to her husband on a handsfree cell phone device. Affixed to the right front of Detray's pickup was a 16-foot 2-inch tall clearance pole. Detray stated she did not strike the bridge with the pole, but this was contradicted by at least one witness who said the clearance pole hit the bridge four or five times. Detray was only 4.12 seconds and approximately 300 feet ahead of Scott. As Scott neared the bridge, he noticed a truck behind him quickly approaching. About a half mile before they entered the bridge, the approaching truck, owned by codefendant Motorways Transport Ltd. and driven by Amandeep Sidhu, was "virtually beside" Scott on his left, confining Scott to the right side of the bridge. Scott's oversize load struck the lower right curvature portion of 11 sway braces. By striking the trusses, Scott caused the north bridge section to collapse into the river. The State sued Mullen Trucking and Motorways Transport for negligence. The trucking companies counterclaimed, claiming the State was also negligent. The trucking companies conceded the State could not be held liable, but they sought to allocate fault to the State under Washington’s comparative fault statute to offset any damage award that may be entered against them. The Washington Supreme Court was asked to decide whether fault may be allocated to the State under the comparative fault statute when the maximum height statute stated "no liability may attach" to the State under these circumstances. The Court determined no fault could be allocated to the State and affirmed. View "Dep't of Transp. v. Mullen Trucking 2005, Ltd." on Justia Law