Justia U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Transportation Law
Allman v. Walmart, Inc.
Federal regulations require commercial truck drivers to undergo annual physicals to be “medically certified as physically qualified." A driver is not physically qualified if he has a clinical diagnosis of a respiratory dysfunction likely to interfere with his ability to drive a commercial motor vehicle safely. Respiratory dysfunction includes sleep apnea.Allman was diagnosed with apnea after a sleep study and was instructed to wear a CPAP machine when sleeping in his truck. Allman complained about the device, which was remotely monitored. Allman was suspended twice for noncompliance. Allman independently completed a second sleep study, which showed that Allman did not have sleep apnea. Allman stopped wearing the CPAP and obtained a new DOT certification card without another examination. Walmart instructed Allman to participate in another sleep study because the doctor who performed Allman’s independent study was not board certified. A third study resulted in a second diagnosis of sleep apnea. Allman refused to wear the CPAP machine. Rather than taking the conflicting sleep studies to a DOT medical examiner, Allman resigned and filed suit, asserting discrimination based on perceived disability and retaliation under Ohio law.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of both claims. Walmart offered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its CPAP requirement; Allman failed to rebut that reason as pretextual. Walmart’s CPAP requirement was not an unsafe working condition but was a disability accommodation meant to promote public safety and to ensure compliance with federal law. View "Allman v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law
Frye v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
Shyan Frye, age 13, was struck by a train while walking her bicycle over a rail crossing in Huron Township, Michigan. At the time of the accident, the train was traveling below the applicable speed limit and its horn sounded for approximately 20 seconds before it reached the crossing—more than required by federal law. The collision proved fatal. Shyan’s mother sued CSX, the train’s owner, Gallacher, the train’s conductor; and Conrail, the owner of the track. The claims against Gallacher were resolved in his favor at summary judgment. A jury returned a verdict in favor of CSX and Conrail. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, upholding the district court’s entry of summary judgment for Gallacher. The court also upheld the district court’s refusal to strike a potential juror for cause during voir dire; evidentiary rulings admitting evidence of the potential side effects of an anti-depressant Shyan was taking at the time of her death, and excluding photographs of the railroad crossing after it was resurfaced; and the court’s refusal to give a jury instruction regarding the heightened duty of care imposed on tortfeasors when children are present. View "Frye v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law
CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Sebree
In 1966, Sebree Kentucky enacted an ordinance requiring CSX Transportation’s predecessor to obtain approval from the city before commencing any maintenance or construction project that would result in any change in grade at any of the six railroad crossings in Sebree. After a 1979 dispute concerning the ordinance, the predecessor railroad and the city entered into a settlement agreement. The company agreed not to raise the height of one crossing by more than 0.4 feet and not to raise the height of another crossing at all. In 2017, CSX notified Sebring of its intent to perform maintenance that would raise four crossings. CSX obtained a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of the ordinance or settlement agreement. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding both the ordinance and settlement agreement preempted by the 1995 Termination Act, which established the Surface Transportation Board and gave it exclusive jurisdiction over certain aspects of railroad transportation, 49 U.S.C. 1301, 10501(b). The ordinance, as applied, is not settled and definite enough to avoid open-ended delays, and could easily be used as a pretext for interfering with rail service; it “amount[s] to impermissible [local] regulation of [CSX’s] operations by interfering with the railroad’s ability to uniformly design, construct, maintain, and repair its railroad line.” View "CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Sebree" on Justia Law
Exel, Inc. v. Southern Refrigerated Transport, Inc.
Exel, a shipping broker, sued SRT, an interstate motor carrier, after SRT lost a load of pharmaceuticals owned by Exel’s customer, Sandoz, that was being transported from Pennsylvania to Tennessee. After nearly seven years of litigation, including a prior appeal, the district court entered judgment for Exel and awarded it the replacement cost of the lost pharmaceuticals, approximately $5.9 million. SRT argued that the district court erred in discounting bills of lading that ostensibly limited SRT’s liability to a small fraction of the shipment’s value. Exel argued that the court erred in measuring damages by the replacement cost of the pharmaceuticals rather than by their higher market value. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Exel and SRT had a Master Transportation Services Agreement (MTSA), which stated that any bill of lading “shall be subject to and subordinate to” the MTSA; that SRT “shall be liable” to Exel for any “loss” to commodities shipped pursuant to the agreement; and that the “measurement of the loss . . . shall be the Shipper’s replacement value.” The Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 14706 “puts the burden on the carrier to demonstrate that the parties had a written agreement to limit the carrier’s liability, irrespective [of] whether the shipper drafted the bill of lading.” SRT did not carry its burden to show that it effectively limited its liability. View "Exel, Inc. v. Southern Refrigerated Transport, Inc." on Justia Law
SPA Rental, LLC v. Somerset-Pulaski County Airport Board
Airports, including Lake Cumberland Regional Airport, must make “standard grant assurances” (49 U.S.C. 47101) to receive federal funds. Assurance 22 requires an airport to “make the airport available . . . without unjust discrimination to all types ... of aeronautical activities.” Assurance 23 prohibits the airport from granting exclusivity to any aeronautical-services provider. Assurance 24 requires the airport to “maintain a fee and rental structure ... which will make the airport as self-sustaining as possible.” SPA’s director, Iverson, is an aircraft maintenance technician. SPA, at the Airport since 1986, leases hangars to store Iverson’s aircraft. SPA formerly provided maintenance services but now only refurbishes and re-sells aircraft. The Airport Board notified SPA of its intent to let SPA’s lease expire. Finding that there was an unmet need for maintenance services, it solicited bids. SPA did not bid. The Board picked Somerset and agreed to pay up to $8000 toward Somerset’s public liability insurance and forgo rent. The regional FAA office determined that the contract violated Assurance 24. The Board then conditioned the incentives on Somerset’s performing at least 10 aircraft inspections annually, making the contract more economically viable for the Airport, and agreed to terminate Somerset's agreement after one year to solicit new bids. The FAA approved. SPA asked to remain at the Airport “on fair and equal terms.” The Board sent SPA proposed agreements with the same terms, including provision of maintenance services, but refused to allow Iverson to personally lease a hangar. SPA refused to vacate. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in favor of the Board. The FAA standard for unjust discrimination is whether similarly situated parties have been treated differently. SPA is not situated similarly to Somerset. View "SPA Rental, LLC v. Somerset-Pulaski County Airport Board" on Justia Law
Grand Trunk Western Railroad Co. v. United States Department of Labor
Williams has a history of anxiety and depression, predating his employment with Grand Trunk Railroad, where Williams worked as an engineer beginning in 1995. In 2006, Williams consulted Dr. Bernick for hypertension, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Dr. Bernick prescribed Xanax for Williams as a “stop-gap” measure it for his anxiety and depression, referred Williams to a psychiatrist, and advised Williams that he “shouldn’t work” during an anxiety episode if he would not feel safe. In December 2011, Williams missed eight days of work because of anxiety and depression. Grand Trunk deemed six days to be “unexcused absences” and terminated Williams in January 2012 for excessive absenteeism. Williams filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for wrongful retaliation and termination. OSHA dismissed because Williams’s absences for a “non-work-related illness” did not constitute qualifying “protected activity.” An ALJ held that Williams had engaged in protected activity because he was following his physician's treatment plan and the protected activity was a factor in the decision to terminate Williams’s employment. The Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board affirmed, declining to apply Third Circuit precedent that the Federal Railroad Safety Act’s “Prompt medical attention” clause, 49 U.S.C. 20109(c) only applies to treatment plans for on-duty injuries. The Sixth Circuit disagreed. Subsection (c)(2), like subsection (c)(1), applies only to on-duty injuries. View "Grand Trunk Western Railroad Co. v. United States Department of Labor" on Justia Law
Doe v. Etihad Airways, P.J.S.C.
Doe and her daughter flew aboard Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to Chicago. During the journey, Doe’s tray table remained open because a knob had fallen off. Doe’s daughter found the knob on the floor; Doe placed it in a seatback pocket. When a flight attendant reminded Doe to place her tray in the locked position for landing, Doe attempted to explain by reaching into the seatback pocket to retrieve the knob. She was pricked by a hypodermic needle that lay hidden within, which drew blood. Doe sought damages from Etihad for her physical injury and her “mental distress, shock, mortification, sickness and illness, outrage and embarrassment from natural sequela of possible exposure to” various diseases. Her husband claimed loss of consortium. The court granted Etihad partial summary judgment, citing the Montreal Convention of 1999, an international treaty, which imposes capped strict liability “for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft.” The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court erred in reading an additional “caused by” requirement into the treaty and concluding that Doe’s bodily injury did not cause her emotional and mental injuries. The Convention allows Doe to recover all her “damage sustained” from the incident. View "Doe v. Etihad Airways, P.J.S.C." on Justia Law
Michigan Flyer, LLC v. Wayne County Airport Authority
Michigan Flyer provides public transportation services to the Detroit Metro area and provides services on behalf of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. In 2014, two disabled individuals sued the Wayne County Airport to prevent it from moving the public transportation bus stop from the curbside at the terminal. Michigan Flyer provided support to the disabled individuals in the lawsuit. Michigan Flyer alleges that after the lawsuit settled, the Airport retaliated against it by extending preferential access to all other transportation providers. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of its suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act Title V provisions, 42 U.S.C. 12203(a); the district court’s refusal to reopen the case pursuant to FRCP 59; and denial of the Airport’s motion for attorney’s fees. The statute’s use of the term “individual” is unambiguous and does not include corporations, such as Michigan Flyer. View "Michigan Flyer, LLC v. Wayne County Airport Authority" on Justia Law
Allied Erecting & Dismantling Co., Inc. v. Surface Transp. Bd.
East of Youngstown’s Center Street Bridge, Allied owns land containing the “LTV tracks.” Mahoning Railroad Company has an easement to use those tracks. Mahoning began parking rail cars on the tracks, which Allied considered a violation of the easement. A state court referred the matter to the Surface Transportation Board. Allied challenged the Board’s jurisdiction, arguing that the tracks were “spur, side, or industrial tracks,” excepted tracks under 49 U.S.C. 10906. The Board concluded (erroneously) that it had previously authorized Mahoning to provide common-carrier service using the LTV tracks; that Mahoning, therefore, was a “railroad carrier”; and that the easement did not forbid the use. Allied introduced an affidavit from a former Mahoning employee, asserting that the LTV tracks had been built as part of a strictly in-plant system and were never subject to Board control, then argued that the LTV tracks were private tracks outside the Board’s jurisdiction, rather than excepted tracks. The Board agreed that it had not authorized Mahoning to use the tracks, but concluded that the LTV tracks were mainline tracks, over which it had jurisdiction. Because Allied waited five years to clarify its position, the Board did not consider the “new evidence” and reaffirmed. Mahoning alleges that it owns lot 62188, west of the bridge; Allied alleges that it bought the lot and sought to evict Mahoning. The Board concluded that the 62188 tracks are either excepted or mainline tracks, within its jurisdiction, and remanded to state court for determination of land title. The Sixth Circuit denied an appeal. Mahoning’s use of the tracks fits the statutory definition of “transportation by rail carrier . . . by railroad” and is within the Board’s jurisdiction View "Allied Erecting & Dismantling Co., Inc. v. Surface Transp. Bd." on Justia Law
Am. Premier Underwriters v. Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp.
APU holds 5.2 million shares of Amtrak common stock pursuant to the Rail Passenger Service Act, 84 Stat. 1327. The 1997 Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act, 49 U.S.C. 24304 mandated that “Amtrak shall, before October 1, 2002, redeem all common stock previously issued, for the fair market value.” In 2000, Amtrak proposed to redeem APU’s common stock for three cents per share. APU rejected Amtrak’s offer in November 2000. The statutory deadline passed without Amtrak making any further offer to redeem the shares. APU and Amtrak negotiated until January 2008, when Amtrak declared that the shares were worthless and that further negotiations would be futile. The parties never reached a settlement. In May 2008, APU sued Amtrak. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit remanded one claim. On remand, the district court dismissed that claim as barred by the three-year statute of limitations. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that there is no disputed question of fact regarding the dates of the three key events: Amtrak valued APU’s shares at three cents each in 2000; the deadline for redeeming the shares lapsed in 2002; and Amtrak terminated negotiations in 2008. The court rejected an argument that the limitations period began to run in 2008. View "Am. Premier Underwriters v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp." on Justia Law