Articles Posted in Transportation Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for violation of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2721-2725. The Eleventh Circuit held that the DPPA permitted punitive damages against municipal agencies; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it assessed liquidated damages for both occasions when Defendant Thomas accessed plaintiff's information; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to certify a class action; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to grant a new trial; and the district court did not err when it instructed the jury that punitive damages should bear a reasonable relationship to compensatory damages. View "Truesdell v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Alabama rail carriers pay a 4% sales and use tax on diesel fuel. Motor carriers and water carriers are exempt from that tax but motor carriers pay a Motor Fuels Excise Tax of $0.19 per gallon of diesel. Water carriers pay no tax for diesel fuel. The Eleventh Circuit previously determined that Alabama failed to sufficiently justify the scheme under the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act, 49 U.S.C. 11501, which forbids states from discriminating against rail carriers in assessing property or imposing taxes. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded. On remand, the district court again ruled that Alabama’s tax scheme does not violate the Act. The Eleventh Circuit then reversed. The excise tax justifies the motor carrier exemption. As to water carriers, their exemption is not “compelled by federal law.” Although imposing the sales and use tax on water carriers transporting freight interstate might “expose” the state to a lawsuit under federal law, compulsion requires more than exposure. The water carrier exemption is “compelled by federal law” only if imposition of the sales and use tax would violate federal law. It would not, so it violates the Act. View "CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Alabama Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act prohibits states from imposing a tax that discriminates against a rail carrier. 49 U.S.C. 11501(b)(4). The Eleventh Circuit held that Alabama's tax scheme, which imposes either a sales or use tax on rail carriers when they buy or consume diesel fuel but exempts competing motor and water carriers from those taxes, violates the Act as to water carriers, but not to motor carriers. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that the excise tax was roughly equivalent to the sales and use tax and thus the excise tax justified the motor carrier sales-tax exemption. However, unlike the motor carrier exemption, the State could offer no rough equivalency justification for the water carrier exemption because water carriers pay no state taxes at all when they buy or consume diesel. View "CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Alabama Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act prohibits states from imposing a tax that discriminates against a rail carrier. 49 U.S.C. 11501(b)(4). The Eleventh Circuit held that Alabama's tax scheme, which imposes either a sales or use tax on rail carriers when they buy or consume diesel fuel but exempts competing motor and water carriers from those taxes, violates the Act as to water carriers, but not to motor carriers. The court held that the district court correctly concluded that the excise tax was roughly equivalent to the sales and use tax and thus the excise tax justified the motor carrier sales-tax exemption. However, unlike the motor carrier exemption, the State could offer no rough equivalency justification for the water carrier exemption because water carriers pay no state taxes at all when they buy or consume diesel. View "CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Alabama Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment against two transportation companies, Barrett and Landstar, in an action by Nationwide and its insurer, Essex, seeking to recover loss of an MRI under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. 14706 et seq. The court held that the Magistrate Judge applied the correct standard for distinguishing brokers from carriers, but that there was a genuine factual dispute as to whether Barrett accepted legal responsibility to transport the magnet or communicated to Nationwide that it was brokering the shipment of the magnet to a third party. The court applied the holding in Werner Enterprises, Inc. v. Westwind Maritime International, Inc., 554 F.3d 1319 (11th Cir. 2009), to this case, and held that Landstar was entitled to rely on the Broker-Carrier Agreement's (BCA) limitation of liability, because the BCA satisfied the Carmack Amendment's requirements. In this case, Landstar was entitled to the $1.00 per pound liability limitation in the bill of lading. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Essex Insurance Co. v. Barrett Moving & Storage, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against a sheriff's deputy for improperly accessing and viewing her private information on Florida driver's license databases. The district court granted plaintiff's motion for judgment as a matter of law and held the deputy liable under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the liquidated damages award where the district court did not abuse its discretion in shaping a damages award appropriate for the facts of this case. The court held, however, that the district court failed to start with the lodestar and gave too much weight to the eighth Johnson factor (the amount involved and the results obtained). Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to recalculate an appropriate amount of attorneys' fees. View "Ela v. Destefano" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2721-2725, and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the complaints based on statute of limitations grounds. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) maintains a Driver and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID), which contains drivers' personal information. Plaintiffs claimed that defendants repeatedly accessed plaintiffs' private information through the DAVID database without their knowledge or consent. The court concluded that the statute of limitations began to run on plaintiffs' claims when the alleged DPPA violations occurred; plaintiffs have failed to present any theory that would entitle their claims to be treated as filed within the limitations period; and thus their actions are time-barred. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Foudy v. Indian River County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law

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CSX, an interstate rail carrier, filed suit challenging Alabama's sales and use taxes. At issue was whether exempting CSX's main competitors from Alabama's sales tax was discriminatory as to rail carriers in violation of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulation Reform Act of 1976 (4-R Act), 49 U.S.C. 11501(b)(4). After establishing a comparison class of competitors and showing that its competitors did not pay the sales tax on diesel fuel purchases, CSX made a prima facie showing of discrimination under section 11501(b)(4). Alabama then failed to meet its burden by showing a "sufficient justification" for the exemptions. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court, holding that Alabama's sales tax violated the 4-R Act, and remanded to the district court with instructions to enter declaratory and injunctive relief in favor of CSX. View "CSX Transp., Inc. v. AL Dept. of Revenue, et al." on Justia Law

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Koch Foods appealed the final decision and order issued by the Administrative Review Board (ARB) of the Department of Labor (DOL), in which the ARB determined that Koch Foods had violated the whistleblower protection provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), 49 U.S.C. 31105(a)(1)(B)(i), by firing its employee, respondent Timothy Bailey. Bailey argued that he was fired for refusing to drive a vehicle he believed was overweight in violation of state and federal law. After reviewing the plain language of the provision and its statutory context, as well as the relevant statutory history, the court held that the phrase "refuses to operate a vehicle because ... the operation violates a regulation, standard, or order," as used in section 31105(a)(1)(B)(i), referred only to circumstances in which operation would result in an actual violation of law. Accordingly, the court vacated the ARB's decision and remanded so that the ARB could evaluate whether the operation of Bailey's assigned vehicle would have resulted in an actual violation of a regulation, standard, or order related to commercial motor vehicle safety, health, or security. View "Koch Foods, LLC v. Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Labor, et al" on Justia Law

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This negligence suit under Georgia law stemmed from an injury plaintiff suffered as he unloaded freight from a railcar in July 2005. On appeal, plaintiff asserted that the district court erred by granting summary judgment to defendants because there were triable issues as to whether defendants were negligent in failing to regularly inspect or maintain the bulkhead door. The court held that the district court was correct in granting defendants summary judgment where plaintiff presented no evidence from which a jury could infer that defendants' omissions, even if negligent, were a proximate cause of his injury, an essential element of his negligence claim under Georgia law. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court was affirmed.