Articles Posted in Transportation Law

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After a jury found that BNSF violated the anti-retaliation provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) when it fired plaintiff for, in part, refusing to stop performing an air-brake test on a 42-car train that he was tasked with moving, plaintiff was awarded over $1.2 million in damages. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not err in denying BNSF's motion for judgment as a matter of law with respect to whether plaintiff engaged in FRSA-protected activity. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law on that claim. However, the panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to plaintiff on the contributing-factor issue because the district court conflated plaintiff's prima facie showing, which he successfully made as a matter of law, with his substantive case, which should have gone to the jury. The panel held that plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment on the contributing-factor element of his prima facie showing, but that he was not entitled to summary judgment on his substantive case. View "Rookaird v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's preliminary injunction preventing implementation of California Senate Bill 84, which requires railroads to collect fees from customers shipping certain hazardous materials and then to remit those fees to California. The district court held that the railroads were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims. The panel agreed and held that SB 84 was preempted under the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act because it had a direct effect on rail transportation, and it was not protected from preemption by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act because the fees authorized by SB 84 were not "fair." The panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in evaluating irreparable harm, the balance of the equities, and the public interest. View "BNSF Railway Co. v. California Department of Tax and Fee Administration" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by for-hire drivers challenging a Seattle ordinance that establishes a multistep collective bargaining process between "driver-coordinators," such as Uber and Lyft, and for-hire drivers who contract with those companies. The panel held that the drivers' claims under the National Labor Relations Act were unripe because they failed to allege an injury in fact that was concrete and particularized. In this case, even assuming arguendo that the disclosure of drivers' personal information to the union under the ordinance was imminent, the disclosure was neither a concrete nor a particularized injury. Furthermore, no contract or agreement was imminent. The court also held that the drivers' First Amendment claims were unripe for the same reasons. View "Clark v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law

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The en banc court held that the Railway Labor Act did not preempt a worker's claim premised on a state law right to reschedule vacation leave for family medical purposes, when the worker's underlying right to vacation leave was covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The court also held that the Act did not preempt the worker's claim because the claim neither arose entirely from nor required construction of the CBA. Furthermore, that the CBA must be consulted to confirm the existence of accrued vacation days was not sufficient to extinguish the worker's independent state law right to use the accrued time to care for a sick child. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Alaska Airlines v. Schurke" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting a motion to dismiss Union Pacific's counterclaims in class actions filed by landowners challenging the railroad's ability to lease land to Santa Fe Pacific Pipelines (SFPP). The panel rejected plaintiffs' contention that the panel should not reach the merits of the certified questions and declined to apply the doctrine of collateral estoppel. With respect to the first certified question, the panel held that the pre-1871 Acts, which Congress passed to aid in the construction of railroad lines, do not require a "railroad purpose." In regard to the second certified question, the panel held that Union Pacific has plausibly alleged that the pipeline serves such a purpose. Therefore, the court remanded with instructions to grant leave to amend. View "Wells v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Transportation Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied petitions for review of the FMCSA's statutory authority to issue permits for U.S. long-haul operations to Mexico-domiciled trucking companies. The panel held that the Teamsters and the Drivers Association have constitutional standing; the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act of 2007 encompasses the Teamsters' and the Drivers Association's claims; and the Teamsters and the Drivers Association also have third-party organizational standing. The panel also held that the grant of a long-haul operating permit to a Mexico-domiciled carrier and the denial of the Teamsters' challenge to that grant were final agency actions; the panel has Hobbs Act jurisdiction over the petition for review of the decision to grant Trajosa a permit; whether to grant long-haul authority based on the results of the pilot program was "committed to agency discretion by law" and was thus unreviewable; and therefore the panel may not review the FMCSA's decision to grant Trajosa an operating permit. View "International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. USDOT" on Justia Law

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Oregon Coast is a non-profit corporation that operates tourist trains on a portion of track in Oregon that is owned by the Port of Tillamook Bay, a federally regulated railroad authorized by the Board. In 2014, the State sent Oregon Coast a cease and desist order, alleging that Oregon Coast’s repair work was violating a state “removal-fill law,” which, among other things, requires a state permit for the removal of any amount of material from waters designated as Essential Salmonid Habitat. Oregon Coast filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that the removal-fill law is preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. 10101 et seq., which governs federal regulation of railroads. The court concluded that the repair work done by Oregon Coast under its agreement with the Port falls under the Board’s jurisdiction because the work is done under the auspices of a federally regulated rail carrier and is sufficiently related to the provision of transportation over the interstate rail network. The State’s removal-fill law is preempted as applied to this work, and the district court erred in concluding otherwise. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings because the district court’s rulings on the preliminary injunction, permanent injunction, and declaratory relief were all premised on this incorrect legal determination. View "Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, LLC v. State of Oregon Department of State Lands" on Justia Law

Posted in: Transportation Law

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After BNSF suspended an employee, BMWED filed a complaint against BNSF alleging that BNSF's disciplinary actions interfered with and subverted the Railway Labor Act's (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151-188, grievance and arbitration processes, and sought a declaration that BNSF’s actions violated the RLA. BNSF subsequently filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to enjoin BMWED from proceeding with a threatened strike. The district court ruled in favor of BNSF, concluding that the dispute was minor and subject to mandatory arbitration, and enjoining the threatened strike. BMWED filed an interlocutory appeal of the preliminary injunction. The court concluded that the subsequent entry of the final judgment in the case mooted the question of the procedural propriety of the preliminary injunction. The court concluded that the district court properly applied the ConRail test (Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Railway Labor Executives. Ass’n ) and properly concluded that the parties' dispute is a minor one. The court rejected BMWED's attempts to sidestep the ConRail framework by claiming that the distinction between minor and major disputes does not apply to the case. Rather, the court concluded that this is a dispute that fits squarely within the major/minor framework from the RLA and ConRail. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Bhd. of Maint. of Way v. BNSF" on Justia Law

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The Union petitioned for review of the FRA's decision that the agency lacked jurisdiction to decide whether the Union Pacific Railroad Company had authority under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to designate terminals for a new service the railroad had instituted in California. The court concluded that, because this was a dispute regarding interpretation of the CBA, it was governed by the procedures of the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151a, for disputes requiring interpretation or application of agreements covering rates of pay, rules, or working conditions. The FRA correctly determined that this was fundamentally an issue of contract interpretation beyond its adjudicatory powers. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "United Transp. Union v. Foxx" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against BNSF, alleging claims under MCA 39-2-703, which governs the liability of a railway for negligent mismanagement. BNSF removed to federal court. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of BNSF. The district court found that plaintiff's claims were preempted by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151-88. Applying the Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. v. Norris framework, the court concluded that plaintiff's state claim concerning a collision was not preempted. The right of railway employees to sue on the basis of negligence or mismanagement resulting in termination may be unusual in other jurisdictions, but such a right is undoubtedly recognized in Montana. The court concluded that plaintiff's claim concerning the conduct leading to the collision was independent of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and did not require interpretation by the CBA. Therefore, plaintiff's claim was not preempted by the RLA. The court also concluded that BNSF's disciplinary proceedings were not the legal cause of plaintiff's suspension and termination. Consequently, plaintiff's punitive damages claim was reinstated. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Wolfe v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law