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Court Crier: Transportation

In Gilmour v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed the standard for delayed issuance of a suspension of operating privileges following a first-time conviction under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. The court found that where a conviction is not reported by the court system for an extraordinarily extended period of time (taken to be the suspension period plus ten days), and where the licensee has a lack of motor vehicle code violations and would be prejudiced, the suspension may be overturned and operating privileges may be reinstated. Because the reporting at issue occurred well in excess of the suspension period, the delay was extraordinarily extended and the suspension overturned. (May 9, 2019)

In Germantown Cab Company v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that Sections 5707(c) and 5710 of the Parking Authorities Law do not impair the substantive due process rights of partial taxicab owners and do not amount to unconstitutional delegations of legislative power. The subject sections relate to the process by which the Philadelphia Parking Authority establishes its budget and fee schedules for partial taxicab owners. (April 26, 2019)

In Middaugh v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a non-Departmental delay in reporting a licensee’s conviction for violating the Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. §§ 101-9805, could be the basis upon which a civil license suspension appeal may be sustained. The county-level clerk of court did not notify PennDOT of a licensee’s conviction until two years and four months after the licensee’s conviction. The court found that if a conviction is reported to PennDOT within the applicable period of the license suspension plus ten days, then such delay, as a matter of law, cannot be considered an extraordinarily extended period of time. (October 31, 2018)

In Lupian v. Joseph Cory Holdings, LLC, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA) – which creates wage-related obligations for employers – was preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA). The court held the IWPCA does not have a significant impact on “carrier rates, routes, or services of a motor carrier” and does not frustrate the FAAAA’s deregulatory objectives because the impact of the IWPCA is too tenuous and peripheral to fall within the scope of the FAAAA preemption clause. (September 27, 2018)

In Straw v. Kirk A. Fair, Golon Masonry Restoration, Inc. & Pittsburgh Lubes, Inc., the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that a Jiffy Lube and auto parts store owed a duty of care to a customer when they repaired and inspected his car. The customer was involved in a serious rear end collision when the hood of his car opened on the highway. Prior to the collision, during his annual inspection a Jiffy Lube employee temporarily fixed the malfunctioning hood latch. The court held that although 74 Pa.C.S.A. s 4702.1 did not make a routine inspection into a warranty, it also did not immunize the Jiffy Lube from suit when one of its employees made a repair and told the customer the car was safe to drive. Further, both the Jiffy Lube and the auto parts store employees owed the customer a duty of care when they told the customer that the hood latch was operable and the vehicle was safe to drive. Finally, the court held that the finder of fact could consider apportionment and contribution of liability between reckless and negligent co-defendants. (May 11, 2018)

In Seda-Cog Joint Rail Authority v .Carload Express, Inc., the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania considered whether a rail line authority’s operating agreement should have been awarded to a private railroad operator. In making its determination, the court looked to the voting requirements set forth in the Municipal Authorities Act, 53 Pa. C.S. §§5601-5623, which requires a majority vote of the members present at a meeting in order for the authority to take action. Accordingly, the court held that the authority’s vote of seven board members in favor, and three board members against, was effective to award the operating agreement to the private railroad operator. (May 3, 2018)

In Cagey v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the Department of Transportation (PennDOT) may be liable for injuries caused by negligently and dangerously designed guardrails. The court held PennDOT could be liable because the plain language of the Sovereign Immunity Act waived PennDOT’s immunity for such injuries. (February 21, 2018)

In the Matter of the Complaint of Christopher Columbus, LLC, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether the District Court had maritime jurisdiction under the Limitation of Vessel Owner’s Liability Act over what the Court described as an “altercation between passengers on a boat in the process of docking.” After the Court assessed the general features of the incident, it determined that the District Court had maritime jurisdiction because the incident had the potential to disrupt maritime commerce(September 25, 2017)

In Rodriguez v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts addressed whether the MBTA breached its contract with commuter rail services when its service schedule was interrupted by severe winter storms. Holding that no breach of contract occurred, the court explained that the MBTA’s alleged implied contract to provide timely, reliable service was too indefinite to create an enforceable contract. (July 31, 2017)

In Oliver v. Irvello, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a limited-tort plaintiff, who showed fault on the part of a tortfeasor but failed to establish serious injury sufficient to obtain non-economic damages, was the “prevailing party” for purposes of a fee award. The court held that the plaintiff was not the prevailing party because the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law precludes a limited-tort elector from maintaining an action for non-economic damages in the absence of serious bodily injury. (June 13, 2017)

In Rice v. City of Buffalo, Buffalo Fire Department, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 4th Department, addressed whether the correct standard for assessing liability when an emergency vehicle passing through a red light strikes a car in the intersection is one of ordinary negligence or one of reckless disregard for the safety of others. The court held that the driver of an emergency vehicle involved in an emergency operation may be privileged to pass through a red light and, thus, subject only to the “reckless disregard” standard, as long as the driver gave “an audible warning as the emergency vehicle approached and entered the intersection against a red signal, as required by statute. (December 23, 2016)

In Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation v. Walsh/Granite JV, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania considered whether Section 9111 of the Public-Private Transportation Partnership Law (P3 Law) exempts unsuccessful proposals to repair structurally deficient bridges from disclosure under the Right to Know Law. Specifically, the P3 Law explicitly states that only successful proposals are subject to release, and is silent on whether unsuccessful proposals must be disclosed as well. The court held that if the General Assembly wanted all proposals to be released, it would not have limited the language to only reference the release of successful proposals. (October 31, 2016)

In Lyft, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania examined the proprietary status of a mobile ride-sharing company’s trip data for the period before it obtained experimental authority to operate as a transportation network company. The Court determined that the trip data, which represented the number of trips provided in a span of time using the company’s mobile application, did not constitute proprietary or trade secret information and did not require protection from public disclosure. (August 31, 2016)

In Manning v. Commonwealth Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania considered whether PennDOT enjoyed sovereign immunity against a claim that a motorist was injured by an alleged dangerous condition outside the lanes of travel on a state highway. The court held that PennDOT had no duty to maintain an area located off the highway safe for vehicular traffic. (July 27, 2016)

In Regency Transportation, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts addressed whether an unapportioned use tax imposed on a freight company’s interstate fleet of vehicles violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The court held that the tax did not violate the Commerce Clause because the freight company would not be subject to multiple use taxes from other jurisdictions, the use tax was reasonably related to the in-state activity being taxed, the tax did not discriminate against interstate commerce, and the tax was “fairly related” to the company’s activities within the state. (January 6, 2016)

In Artibee v. Home Place Corporation, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 3d Department, considered CPLR article 16, in which a joint tortfeasor whose culpability is 50% or less is not jointly liable for all of a plaintiff’s noneconomic damages, but is severally liable for its proportionate share. The court determined that the state’s proportionate share of liability should be considered by a jury where the plaintiff was injured when a branch overhanging a state highway fell from a tree located on an individual defendant’s property. (August 13, 2015)

In Gonzales v. Hugelmeyer, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, addressed whether a state trooper’s testimony as to the defendants fault was proper. The court held that where the trooper was not designated as an expert witness it was improper for him to testify that the defendant’s driver inattention caused the accident. (July 22, 2015)

In Township of Fairfield v. State of New Jersey, Department of Transportation, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, addressed the scope of appellate review of administrative agency determinations. The court ruled that it must affirm the agency’s action unless there is a clear showing it is arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable. Additionally, state agency determinations supersede contrary local ordinances. (April 10, 2015)

In Alabama Department of Revenue v. CSX Transportation, Inc., the United States Supreme Court addressed whether Alabama impermissibly discriminates against a rail carrier by imposing on the carrier a diesel fuel tax when trucking companies are exempt from the tax but are subject to an alternative fuel-excise tax.  The court held that competitor trucking companies are an appropriate comparison class, but whether Alabama discriminates depends on whether the alternative tax justifies its decision to exempt motor carriers from the diesel tax. (March 4, 2015)

In Delaware and Hudson Railway Co. v. Knoedler Manufacturers, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, addressed the scope of federal preemption under the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA), which set minimum safety standards for locomotive components.  The court held that although the LIA preempted state claims based on a breach of state common-law duties of care, the Act did not preempt a state claim based on a violation of the standards of care stemming from the LIA itself. (January 9, 2015)

In Certain Underwriters at Interest at Lloyds of London v. United Parcel Service of America, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed the scope of the true conversion exception to the Carmack Amendment. The Amendment preempts all state law claims against an interstate shipper and limits the shipper’s liability to a freight’s actual value or less except in instances involving intentional conversion by the shipper. The court held that the Amendment’s exception for conversion claims applies only to the Amendment’s limitation of liability provision and not its preemptive force and, therefore, the lawsuit, which contained no claim for conversion and alleged only negligence and breach of contract, was preempted. (August 12, 2014)

In Mandal v. Port Authority of NY and NJ, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, addressed the applicability of the heightened standard of care imposed on common carriers. The court found that, since the plaintiff was injured in a station, as opposed to on a train or embarking or disembarking from a train, the Port Authority was an occupier of land and the heightened standard of care did not apply. (April 4, 2013)

In Shiner v. Ralston, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that a defendant’s simple denial of negligence where a decedent driver was rendered unconscious was insufficient to shift the summary judgment burden to the plaintiff under the “sudden medical emergency” defense.  The court distinguished between the “sudden emergency doctrine” and the “sudden medical emergency defense.” The former relates to the reduced standard of care a driver is held to when confronted with a sudden and unexpected event with no time to apprehend a situation, while the latter is an affirmative defense relating to sudden unconsciousness and incapacitation which must be pled affirmatively. Moreover, there were disputed material issues of fact which made summary judgment inappropriate. (February 22, 2013)

In Sondergaard v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether Section 1611(c) of the Commercial Driver's Act mandates lifetime disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle when an individual commits a second violation for driving under the influence while driving a non-commercial vehicle. The court found that the lifetime disqualification applies to commercial driver's license holders who have committed disqualifying offenses, regardless of whether operating a commercial or personal motor vehicle at the time of the offense. (February 7, 2013)

In Mapemawa, Inc. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania reversed an adjudication of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, Taxicab and Limousine Division, which denied an application for a certificate of public convenience to provide limousine service in Philadelphia.  The Parking Authority denied the application because it found the applicant did not show it was capable of providing lawful service because it had “pled liable” to a Parking Authority citation in 2008. The court found the isolated event was insufficient to support the Parking Authority’s conclusion that the applicant lacked the propensity to operate legally. (January 24, 2013)

In Sawink Inc. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the Philadelphia Parking Authority had the authority to impound taxicabs operating under a certificate of public convenience issued by the Public Utility Commission for violating Section 5714 of the Parking Authority Law, 53 Pa. C.S. §§ 5501-5517, 5701-5745. The violations stemmed from committing a territorial violations proscribed by Subsection (a) of Section 5714, i.e., picking up a hail in Philadelphia. The court held that the legislature has not clearly and unmistakenly conferred upon the Parking Authority the power to impound taxicabs certificated by the PUC that violate the territorial rules. Therefore, the Parking Authority must limit sanctions for such conduct to those listed in Section 5714(e), which include pursuing civil penalties pursuant to section 5725. (January 6, 2012)

In Franklin v. Cmwlth. of Pa., Dept. of Trans., Bureau of Driver Licensing, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) mandates the suspension of a person’s driving privilege for an unpaid judgment entered against that person under the Parental Liability Act (PLA). The court held that the purpose of the MVFRL was to “promote financial responsibility of drivers and aid in the collection of debts against negligent owners and drivers” and not does not include a parent, whose only liability lies under their relationship with the child. The court held that a judgment under the PLA is not a judgment under the MVFRL. (January 11, 2012)

In Perrelli v. Pastorelle, the Supreme Court of New Jersey held that New Jersey's motor vehicle "No Fault Law" bars a person who is injured while a passenger in their own uninsured automobile from pursuing a personal injury action. The "No Fault Law", N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(a), states that a person who fails to maintain required automobile insurance cannot pursue an action to recover damages from an accident "while operating" an uninsured vehicle. The court held that this statute barred the plaintiff's personal injury claim even though she was a passenger. (June 1, 2011) 

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