Articles Posted in Transportation Law

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Plaintiff filed a wrongful death suit against the City after her grandson died during a police pursuit. Plaintiff claimed that an officer acted negligently and committed battery by performing a Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) that caused the vehicle in which her grandson was a passenger in, to spin into a street light pole. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, holding that the City was immune from liability for the officer's conduct under Vehicle Code section 17004.7. Section 17004.7 provided immunity to a public agency employing peace officers when the agency adopts and promulgates a policy on vehicular pursuits in compliance with the requirements of the statute. View "Ramirez v. City of Gardena" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff challenges the trial court’s denial of his petition for a writ of mandate to overturn a hearing officer’s decision to suspend plaintiff's license after he violated Vehicle Code section 13353.2 by driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. In this case, the trial court's ruling was based on its rejection of the unrebutted testimony of plaintiff's expert, who opined that the blood testing procedure used to measure plaintiff's BAC was scientifically invalid. In Najera v. Shiomoto, which involved the same expert, the court held that the expert's testimony, that single-column gas chromatography was incapable of valid measurement of BAC, rebutted the presumption that the laboratory was using methodology “capable of the analysis of ethyl alcohol with a specificity which is adequate and appropriate for traffic law enforcement.” Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "Freitas v. Shiomoto" on Justia Law

Posted in: Transportation Law

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The City and Xerox appealed the trial court's grant of petitioner's petition for writ of mandate. At issue is whether the City, as the “issuing agency” for notice of parking violations in the City, Veh. Code, 40202, must conduct the “initial review” of challenged citations, section 40215, subd. (a), or whether it may delegate that duty to Xerox, its "processing agency," section 40200.6, subd. (a), with which it contracts "for the processing of notices of parking violations," section 40200.5, subd. (a). The court held that, based on the language of section 40215, subdivision (a) and relevant legislative history, the City is required to conduct the initial review, and cannot contract with Xerox to perform that duty. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court’s issuance of a writ of mandate, as well as the trial court's award of approximately $722,000 in attorney fees pursuant to the California private attorney general statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. View "Weiss v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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California’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 (OPPA), under the unfair competition law (Bus. & Prof. Code 17200 et. seq.), addresses the obligations of an operator of a commercial Web site or online service regarding the posting of a privacy policy on the Internet. The state sought damages and injunctive relief under OPPA, alleging that Delta’s Fly Delta mobile application violated the privacy policy requirements. The trial court dismissed, finding the suit expressly preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (49 U.S.C. 41713 (b)(1)). The court of appeal affirmed. To compel Delta to comply with the OPPA would effectively interfere with the airline’s “selection and design” of its mobile application, a marketing mechanism “appropriate to the furnishing of air transportation service,” for which state enforcement has been held to be expressly preempted. View "Harris v. Delta Air Lines" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action suit against MCRA, alleging that the stop sign violation for which MRCA cited him occurred on a “highway” as defined by Vehicle Code section 360, that Vehicle Code section 21 makes the provision of the Vehicle Code uniformly applicable to all “highways” located in California, that Vehicle Code section 21455.5 governs automated traffic enforcement systems, and that MRCA failed to comply with the requirements of Vehicle Code section 21455.5 in establishing its automated video camera traffic enforcement system. At issue on appeal is whether MCRA is unlawfully imposing administrative penalties - in substantive effect fines for moving traffic violations - on motor vehicle owners. The court concluded that the trial court correctly ruled that it is “immaterial” whether or not the roadway in MRCA-controlled parkland where plaintiff was administratively cited is a “highway” as defined in Vehicle Code section 360. Highway or not in plaintiff's case, the court found that the MRCA Ordinance does not conflict with Vehicle Code section 21’s general prohibition against local vehicle ordinances in favor of uniform state vehicle laws. Because the court held that MRCA’s automated video camera traffic enforcement system is not subject to the Vehicle Code’s provisions governing automated traffic enforcement systems, the trial court correctly sustained MRCA’s demurrer. View "Everett v. Mountains Recreation & Conservancy Auth." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured while working on the railroad, he filed suit against BNSF under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51 et seq., alleging that he was injured because of BNSF's negligence. A jury found in favor of plaintiff and awarded him over $3 million in damages. BNSF appealed. The court rejected BNSF's argument that the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. 20101 et seq., and its regulations preclude plaintiff's FELA claim. Rather, the court concluded that the FRSA and its regulations do not preclude federal claims under FELA and rejected BNSF's other contentions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Fair v. BNSF Railway" on Justia Law

Posted in: Transportation Law

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Vargas and Villalobos were driving a tractor-trailer across the country. Villalobos was driving and Vargas was in the sleeper berth when the tractor-trailer rolled over, injuring Vargas. Vargas sued FMI (the motor carrier and trailer owner), Eves (the tractor owner), and Villalobos for negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment for FMI and Eves, concluding as a matter of law that neither was vicariously liable for Villalobos’s alleged negligence. The court of appeal reversed. Federal law requires motor carriers using leased vehicles to “have control of and be responsible for” such vehicles (49 U.S.C. 14102) in order to “protect the public from the tortious conduct of the often judgment-proof truck lessor operators.” Defendants did not establish as a matter of undisputed fact that the tractor’s owner is entitled to the protection of the “Graves Amendment,” 49 U.S.C. 30106(a), which shields owners of leased vehicles “engaged in the business or trade of renting or leasing motor vehicles” from vicarious liability for the alleged negligence of their lessee’s drivers. View "Vargas v. FMI, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a declaratory relief action where the Railroad sought a determination of the rent due from the Pipeline for the continued use of its easements from 2004 to 2014. The Railroad obtained a declaration that the rent due was in excess of $14 million per year. The trial court entered judgment reflecting the total back rent due, plus interest, up to the date of entry of judgment. The Pipeline appealed. The court addressed the law relating to railroad rights-of-way in an effort to resolve the legal issues that apply to property interests in the land and, by extension, the Railroad's right to grant and lease subsurface easements to the Pipeline. The court reversed and remanded the trial court's finding as to the "total fee value" for purposes of its ATF calculation; directed the trial court to determine the total fee value of those parcels of land in which the Railroad had sufficient interest to entitle it to collect rent on the Pipeline's easements between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2013; concluded that the trial court committed no error with respect to its determinations regarding issue preclusion, use of the ATF method, - calculations of the rental rate, the enhancement factor, and the use factor -, and the dates of abandonment of certain easements by the Pipeline; and reversed and remanded that part of the judgment awarding prejudgment interest under Civil Code 3287(a) in order for the trial court to determine whether the Pipeline was liable for the payment of rent on the reserved easements, the abandoned easements, or Line Section 101, which rent it unilaterally withheld.View "Union Pacific Railroad v. Santa Fe Pacific Pipelines" on Justia Law

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North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA), a public agency established by Government Code section 93000, entered into a contract with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Company (NWPRC), allowing NWPRC to conduct freight rail service on tracks controlled by NCRA. Two environmental groups filed suit under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Pub. Resources Code, 21050, 21168.5, to challenge NCRA’s certification of an environmental impact report (EIR) and approval of NWPRC’s freight operations. The trial court denied the petitions, concluding CEQA review was preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA; 49 U.S.C. 10101) and rejecting a claim that NCRA and NWPRC were estopped from arguing otherwise. The appeals court affirmed, rejecting an argument that the ICCTA preempts only the “regulation” of rail transportation, whereas NCRA agreed to conduct a CEQA review of the rail operations and related repair/maintenance activities as part of a contract allowing it to receive state funds. NCRA and NWPRC are not estopped from claiming no EIR was required, due to positions taken in previous proceedings and the EIR was not insufficient for improperly “segmenting” the project, given that additional rail operations were contemplated on other sections of the line. View "Friends of the Eel River v. N. Coast RR. Auth." on Justia Law