Articles Posted in Transportation Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Edwards worked as a CSX train engineer for 31 years. He arrived at work on May 28, 2012, with an upset stomach. The bathroom in the lead locomotive was “nasty,” Edwards saw and smelled:“[U]rine, human waste, . . . [and] blue chemical” splattered all over the toilet and floor. Edwards sprayed disinfectant, closed the door, and started the trip. During a stop, about 80 miles and six hours later, Edwards’ nausea escalated. Unwilling to use a foul bathroom, he sprinted to a catwalk, outside of the locomotive. He threw up over the side. Then he vomited a second time and, in the process, fell over the handrail onto the ground below. He broke two of his vertebrae and cracked a rib, ending his career with CSX. Edwards sought damages under Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. 51; its regulations required CSX to keep its locomotive bathroom sanitary. On remand, CSX again obtained summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. CSX complied with the rules the day before Edwards’ injury, when it inspected and cleaned the bathroom; the regulations do not require railroads to ensure that the toilets are clean at any given moment between inspections. Edwards had abandoned his other negligence claims. View "Edwards v. CSX Transp., Inc." on Justia Law

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An individual and a company filed a putative class action suit alleging that United Parcel Service (UPS) overcharges customers for liability coverage against loss or damage for packages with a declared value of $300 or more. The complaint alleged breach of contract; sought declaratory relief (28 U.S.C. 2201); claimed violation of 49 U.S.C. 13708(b) (regulating billing and collecting practices for motor carriers); and, in the alternative, alleged unjust enrichment. The district court dismissed, agreeing with UPS that the language of the shipping contract at issue unambiguously precluded the plaintiffs’ interpretation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed with respect to 49 U.S.C. 13708(b), but reversed the dismissal of the remaining claims. Reasonable minds could differ on the correct interpretation of UPS’s Service Guide provision; the provision is at least ambiguous, so its meaning is a question of fact that is not properly answered by the court at this early stage in the proceedings. An unjust enrichment claim—that a benefit was unjustly conferred on UPS when customers paid an extra charge on packages despite UPS’s representations that it provided a portion of this service for free—is not precluded by his breach of contract claim. View "Solo v. United Parcel Serv. Co." on Justia Law

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Haines operates a tour bus company. In 2000, he modified the luggage compartment in a bus to become a sleeper area, designed to comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. In May, 2011, FMCSA informed Haines that he could use the luggage compartment as a sleeper area without additional approval if he complied with 49 C.F.R. 393.76. On May 29, 2011, Haines permitted family members to ride in the sleeper area while the bus was in motion. An unidentified individual notified authorities. On June 10, FMCSA placed all of Haines’ busses, including three without sleeper areas, out of service, and identified Haines Tours as an “imminent hazard” to public safety based on its finding that the “unauthorized transportation of passengers in the cargo area . . . substantially increase[d] the likelihood of serious injury or death.” The suspension lasted five days. Haines sued, alleging that the handling of the temporary suspension violated his due process and equal protection rights and gave rise to a claim under the Administrative Procedures Act. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal without leave to amend; “Bivens” claims were time-barred by Michigan’s three-year statute of limitations and a Bivens remedy was not available because Haines had an adequate, alternative remedy. View "Haines v. Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin." on Justia Law

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Exel, a shipping broker, sued SRT, an interstate motor carrier, after SRT lost a shipment of pharmaceutical products it had agreed to transport for Exel on behalf of Exel’s client, Sandoz. On summary judgment, the district court awarded Exel the replacement value of the lost goods pursuant to the transportation contract between Exel and SRT, rejecting SRT’s argument that its liability was limited under the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 14706. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Whether SRT had limited its liability was a question of fact for a jury. To limit its liability under the Carmack Amendment, a carrier must: provide the shipper with a fair opportunity to choose between two or more levels of liability obtain the shipper’s written agreement as to its choice of liability; and issue a receipt or bill of lading prior to moving the shipment. SRT did not meet its burden on summary judgment of establishing that it provided Sandoz with the opportunity to choose between two or more levels of liability. SRT did not explain what “classification or tariff . . . govern[ed]” the shipment, nor indicate whether it made this information available to Sandoz. View "Exel, Inc. v. S. Refrigerated Transp., Inc." on Justia Law

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Mokdad, a naturalized U.S. citizen, alleges that he has been denied boarding on commercial airline flights between the U.S. and his native country, Lebanon because he was on the No Fly List. Mokdad applied for redress under the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP). Mokdad received a letter that did not confirm or deny whether he was on the List but informed him that “we have conducted a review of any applicable records in consultation with other federal agencies ... no changes or corrections are warranted at this time.” The letter notified him of his right to file administrative appeal with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) within 30 days, that the TRIP determination would become final if he did not, and that final determinations are reviewable by the Court of Appeals under 49 U.S.C. 46110. Mokdad did not file a TSA administrative appeal or a petition with the Court of Appeals but filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Michigan against the Attorney General, the FBI, and the Director of the Terrorist Screening Center. Mokdad did not name TSA or any TSA officer. The Sixth Circuit reversed dismissal, finding that the district court had jurisdiction, but declined to address the challenge to the adequacy of procedures to contest inclusion on the No Fly List, for failure to join a necessary party. View "Mokdad v. Lynch" on Justia Law

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The 1976 Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act prohibits states from imposing taxes that “discriminat[e] against a rail carrier,” 49 U.S.C. 11501(b)(4)A, including: Assessing rail transportation property at a value with a higher ratio to the true market value of the property than the ratio applied to other commercial and industrial property; levying or collecting an ad valorem property tax on rail transportation property at a tax rate that exceeds the rate applicable to commercial and industrial property in the same jurisdiction; or imposing “another tax that discriminates against a rail carrier providing transportation.” Railroads sued, claiming that Tennessee sales and use tax assessments were discriminatory. The district court agreed, holding that imposition of those taxes on railroad purchases and use of diesel fuel was discriminatory. In response, in 2014, Tennessee enacted a Transportation Fuel Equity Act that repeals the sales and use tax on railroad diesel fuel, but subjects railroads to the same per-gallon tax imposed on motor carriers under the Highway User Fuel Tax. Previously railroads, like other carriers using diesel fuel for off-highway purposes, were exempt from a “diesel tax.” The Railroads contend the Act is discriminatory because it now subjects only railroads to taxation of diesel fuel used off-highway. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of the Railroads’ motion for a preliminary injunction on its targeted or singling-out approach and the functional approach, but remanded for consideration of the Railroads’ argument under the competitive approach. View "CSX Transp., Inc. v. Tenn. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law