Articles Posted in Transportation 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.

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Plaintiff, owner and operator of a flat-rate ground transportation service, filed a lawsuit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission's (Commission) regulations required him to obtain certificates and permits for his vehicles were preempted by 49 U.S.C. 14501, also known as the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. Specifically, plaintiff contended that section 14501(a)(1)(C) preempted the Commission's regulation regarding his 15-passenger vehicle and section 14501(c)(1) preempted the Commission's regulation regarding his 7-passenger minivan. The court affirmed the district court's decision rejecting plaintiff's first argument and adopted that court's reasoning. The court also held that, because plaintiff transported property only as an ancillary service to the transportation of passengers he was not a "[m]otor carrier of property" under section 14501(c). Consequently, it followed that the provision and its subparts did not preempt the Commission's luxury service transportation rule. Accordingly, the district court correctly granted summary judgment to the Commission.