Articles Posted in Transportation Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that BNSF violated the Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. 20109, when it terminated his employment for harassing a co-worker and threatening a supervisor. The district court ultimately granted BNSF summary judgment on the merits and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's retaliation claim because he failed to submit evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to infer that his FRSA-protected activities were a contributing factor in BNSF's decision to discharge him for harassing and intimidating a co-worker. Because BNSF did not sufficiently develop its alternative waiver argument, did not raise a laches or estoppel defense in the district court or on appeal, and presented insufficient proof (if any) on these fact intensive issues, the court left these questions for another day. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gunderson v. BNSF Railway" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the Board's decision and order affirming the ALJ in petitioner's Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. 20109, retaliatory termination action. The court concluded that the ALJ correctly applied the background evidence rule enunciated by the Supreme Court in National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, which held that an employee can use prior acts as background evidence for a timely claim even when those same acts are time-barred; the court rejected petitioner's argument that hearsay evidence at the hearing undermines the ALJ's ultimate conclusions where the evidence was not offered to prove the truth of the matters asserted, but instead, to show the effect of the assertions on the decision maker; and the ALJ's determination that petitioner's protected acts were not a contributing factor in his termination was supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court denied the petition and affirmed the final decision and order. View "Mercier v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was seriously injured on the job, BNSF disciplined him for violations of BNSF rules that led to his injury. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging that BNSF's discipline violated the employee-protections provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(4). The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for BNSF, concluding that plaintiff failed to establish that his supervisors intentionally retaliated against him for filing his injury report. In this case, without more specific evidence of an improper retaliatory motive, the court found that plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case. View "Heim v. BNSF Railway" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was disciplined by his employer, BNSF, for not promptly reporting a workplace injury, he filed suit claiming that BNSF's discipline violated the employee-protections provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 20109(a)(4). The jury awarded plaintiff damages for emotion distress. The court concluded, however, that its decision in Kuduk v. BNSF Railway Co. required plaintiff to establish intentional retaliation and that the jury instructions did not compel such a finding. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Blackorby v. BNSF Railway" on Justia Law

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The City filed suit against Union Pacific in state court, seeking an order requiring Union Pacific to restore a public at-grade rail crossing or, alternatively, allowing the City to condemn Union Pacific’s land across that public crossing. The district court granted the City summary judgment and a permanent injunction, rejecting Union Pacific’s contention that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. 10501(b), grants the Surface Transportation Board (STB) exclusive jurisdiction over the City’s claims. The court concluded that ICCTA’s express preemption provision applies to this dispute; Union Pacific has made a strong showing that the remedy the City seeks would “impede rail operations or pose undue safety risks,” the STB’s governing preemption standard; and therefore the court remanded with instructions for the district court to rule on Union Pacific’s motion to dismiss the City’s amended complaint for lack of jurisdiction unless the City obtains a ruling from the STB that it lacks or declines exclusive jurisdiction over this dispute. View "City of Ozark, AR v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Transportation Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of drivers, filed suit against the City and Gatso, alleging that the Automatic Traffic Enforcement (ATE) system violates their right to procedural due process, their fundamental right to travel, Iowa Code 602.6101, and causes unjust enrichment for the City and Gatso. The City contracted with Gatso to install and operate the ATE system. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims. The court concluded that the district court did not err by determining that plaintiff Hughes lacks Article III standing where he does not allege that he has incurred any costs to mitigate or avoid the threat of ATE enforcement, or that the threat of an ATE citation is sufficiently imminent, and plaintiff Mazgaj lacks third party standing where he failed to show a hindrance to his wife’s ability to protect her own interests. The court concluded, however, that plaintiff Lee's claims are ripe where he was found guilty of violating the ordinance and no further factual development is necessary. Thus, Lee has the hardship of citation and the cost of litigation. The court further concluded that the district court never had jurisdiction of Hughes and Mazgaj’s claims and therefore their claims should be remanded to state court. Plaintiffs Robinson, Sparks, Northrup, Yarpezeshkan, French, and Stimpson have established standing to bring procedural-due-process claims. However, these plaintiffs failed to state a violation of their procedural due process rights. The court rejected plaintiffs' claims that the system violated their substantive rights, Equal Protection claim, and unjust enrichment claim. Because the City’s appeal of the IDOT’s ruling is still pending, this claim is not ripe. Therefore, the district court should dismiss without prejudice the drivers’ state-law claims based on the alleged violation of IDOT rules. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Hughes v. City of Cedar Rapids" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, six drivers, filed suit against the City alleging that the Automatic Traffic Enforcement (ATE) system violates federal and state law. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs argue that the district court should not have relied on Hughes v. City of Cedar Rapids because the facts here are materially different. The court concluded that Cedar Rapids and Des Moines offer direct access to the district court or an optional administrative proceeding with de novo appellate review. Based on this court’s holding, the other differences that the drivers allege are irrelevant. Therefore, plaintiffs' claims are addressed in the Hughes opinion. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Brooks v. City of Des Moines" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed separate actions against various Minnesota cities, counties, and law enforcement entities alleging violations of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2724(a). In separate orders, the district court denied in part defendants’ motions to dismiss, including claims by many defendants that they are entitled to qualified immunity. The City of Minneapolis appeals the denial of qualified immunity in the Karasov action, and numerous Minnesota counties appeal the denial of qualified immunity in the Kampschroers action. After the parties briefed these appeals, the court issued its decision in McDonough v. Anoka County, which squarely addressed the issue of qualified immunity. The court concluded that McDonough is controlling precedent. The court also concluded that its decision that the statutory term “obtain” is unambiguous controls defendants' additional argument that the rule of lenity entitles them to qualified immunity. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Kampschroer v. Ramsey County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Minnesota driver's license holders, filed suit against local entities, Law Enforcement Does, Commissioners, and DPS Does, alleging that defendants violated the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2721-2725, by accessing or disclosing personal information from the DPS database without a permissible purpose. The district courts dismissed the actions for failure to state a claim. The present appeals raise issues similar to those presented in the court's opinion in McDonough v. Anoka County and are governed by the court's holding in that case. McDonough discussed the history, purpose, and applicability of the DPPA. The court addressed the individual complaints in this group of cases and affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ray v. Anoka County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, employed as truck drivers, filed suit against Tutle and Schlumberger, alleging that defendants failed to pay them overtime compensation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 207(a)(1), and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (AMWA), Ark. Code Ann. 11-4-211(a). The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. The court affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs are exempt under the federal Motor Carrier Act, 29 U.S.C. 213(b)(1), where the evidence establishes that the character of plaintiffs' job duties was such that they were called upon “either regularly or from time to time” to drive in interstate commerce. There was a reasonable expectation of interstate travel, the Motor Carrier Act exemption applies to plaintiffs, and plaintiffs thus are not entitled to overtime compensation. View "Alexander v. Tutle and Tutle Trucking" on Justia Law