Articles Posted in Transportation Law

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After he drove his car into a stationary train that was blocking a traffic crossing, plaintiff filed suit against KCSR, alleging common law negligence claims based on his allegations that the train blocked the crossing for an impermissible amount of time and the train's crew failed to adequately warn approaching drivers of the obstructed crossing. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment, holding that plaintiff's Federal Railroad Safety Act argument was unavailing, and that both blocking claims were preempted by the ICC Termination Act. Furthermore, plaintiff's claim that KCSR failed to adequately warn motorists of the obstructed crossing was barred by Mississippi’s Occupied Crossing Rule. View "Ezell v. Kansas City Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The $25 fee assessed by the Authority is rationally related to the government's interest in recovering costs spent to collect unpaid tolls. Plaintiffs, drivers who were assessed fees after they repeatedly refused to pay tolls, contend that the $25 administrative fee violates their right to substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fifth Circuit held that, in addition to recovering costs, the fee is a mechanism that strongly encourages drivers to get a TollTag. The court explained that the nature of the Authority's interest in incentivizing TollTag usage is to sustain the Authority's financial health. In this case, the Authority's experiment sought to decrease congestion and increase access to the roads, two interests that often compete but could both be furthered by removing toll booths. View "Reyes v. North Texas Tollway Authority" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the Association's appeal of the FMCSA's grant of permanent operating authority to two Mexico-domiciled motor carriers. The court held that the Association failed to file a timely appeal as required by statute. In this case, the orders rejecting and dismissing the Association's protest were final orders of the FMCSA, a fact that was unaffected by the Association's motion for reconsideration. View "Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Ass'n v. US DOT" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a national association of charter-bus companies, sought to enjoin regulations affecting their operations enacted by the City of Austin. At issue was whether federal law preempted the City's exercise of its regulatory authority over the intrastate operation of charter buses. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the regulations were not preempted. The arguments about preemption were based on a federal statute captioned "Federal authority over intrastate transportation." See 49 U.S.C. 14501. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that section 14501(c)(2)(A) may appropriately be considered in interpreting and applying section 14501(a)(2), because both subsections use identical language. The court concluded that the distinctions between sections 14501(a) and (c) do not persuade it to construe "safety regulatory authority" more narrowly in the former than in the latter. The court applied a test that was similar to the Ninth Circuit, concluding that, in light of the permitting regulation's expressed purpose and effect, there was a safety motivation for the ordinance, and there was a nexus between the permitting regulations and the safety concern. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United Motorcoach Association, Inc. v. City of Austin" on Justia Law

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Heniff, hired to transport chemicals, filed suit against Trimac, the company Heniff hired to clean the tanker prior to the trip, for damages after the cleaning was performed incorrectly and chemicals became contaminated. The district court dismissed Heniff's state law claims. The Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. 14706 et seq., establishes a federal liability regime for claims concerning goods damaged or lost during transportation in interstate commerce. The court affirmed the judgment and agreed with the district court that Heniff’s claims are preempted by the Carmack Amendment because the service that Trimac provided, a tanker wash, was a service related to the movement of property in interstate commerce. View "Heniff Transportation Systems v. Trimac Transportation Services" on Justia Law

Posted in: Transportation Law

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This case arose from a dispute between Franks and Union Pacific over whether Franks has the right to cross Union Pacific's train tracks on certain property in Caddo Parish originally owned by the Levy family at the turn of the 20th Century. On appeal, Franks challenged the district court's final judgment granting summary judgment for defendant and dismissing Franks's claims with prejudice. Franks argued that the district court erred in denying the existence of a predial servitude in the three crossings at issue. The court concluded that, under the law applicable to the interpretation of the 1923 deed, the contract is unambiguous; it does not establish a predial servitude with respect to Texas and Pacific Railway Company's obligation to provide three crossings across what was then its property; but, rather, it is merely a personal obligation which does not bind the railway's successors-in-interest. View "Franks Investment Co, L.L.C. v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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BNSF filed suit seeking refunds of certain taxes that it, and its predecessor companies, paid under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA), 26 U.S.C. 3201 et seq. The court concluded that, at least as applied to Non-Qualified Stock Options (NQSOs), the term "compensation", as used and defined by the RRTA, was inherently ambiguous; the IRS's definition was reasonable as applied to the NQSOs; although RRTA "compensation" may exclude certain in-kind benefits such as free rail passes that would otherwise be compensation under section 3121, the court concluded that NQSOs were properly included as "compensation" under the RRTA as interpreted by Treasury Regulation 31.3231(e)-1; the court's conclusion found firm support in the purpose, structure, and legislative history of the RRTA; and therefore, NQSOs were properly taxed as compensation under the RRTA. The court also concluded that, although the informal claims that BNSF filed for the employee tax paid on moving-expense benefits in 1996 and 1997 may satisfy the informal clams doctrine, it was undisputed that BNSF failed to perfect those claims prior to filing the present suit. Accordingly, BNSF's refund claims for those years must be dismissed. The court further concluded that a more reasonable interpretation of section 3231(e)(1)(iii) permitted exclusion of payments to employees for traveling expenses and bona fide and reasonable expenses related to travel, an interpretation harmonizing section 3231(e)(1)(iii) and section 3231(e)(5) as required by the specific-general canon and the rule against superfluities. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed a judgment giving collateral-estoppel effect, in his Federal Railway Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. 20109, suit, to a finding of fact made by a Public Law Board in the course of plaintiff's pursuit of his rights under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with BNSF. The court concluded that, because it was the railroad that conducted the investigation and hearing and terminated plaintiff, and because the Board only reviewed a close record, the procedures were not adequate for collateral estoppel to apply. The court rejected BNSF's election-of-remedies argument where plaintiff sought protection under the CBA for his contractual claims and the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 153, was not itself the source of law under which plaintiff sought protection. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Grimes v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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ATO challenged the City's enactment of an ordinance offering taxicabs certified to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) a "head-of-the-line" privilege at a municipally-owned airport. At issue was whether the ordinance was preempted by the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7543(a). The court concluded that the ordinance, enacted using traditional police powers, was not superseded by any clear and manifest purpose of Congress, above all where Congress's term "standard" had been identified as one "susceptible" to a mandate/incentive distinction. The court also concluded that the ordinance could have its intended effect and substitute CNG cabs for traditional cabs at the airport but it did not show that the City's cab drivers faced such acute, albeit indirect, economic effects as to force them to switch vehicles. Accordingly, the ordinance was not preempted by section 209(a) of the Act and the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the City. View "Ass'n of Taxicab Operators USA v. City of Dallas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, struck by an Amtrak train across railroad tracks owned and maintained by Illinois Central, claimed that Illinois Central failed to signalize the crossing properly. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding an expert's testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. The court also held that Illinois Central demonstrated that the crossing at issue was not "unusually dangerous" as a matter of Mississippi law. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Illinois Central. View "Brown v. Illinois Central Railroad Co." on Justia Law