Articles Posted in Transportation Law

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When Chrysler Group, LLC filed with the Montana Department of Justice, Motor Vehicle Division a notice of intent to establish an additional Chrysler-Jeep dealership in Billings, Lithia Motors, Inc. filed an administrative protest. The Department sustained Lithia’s protest. Rimrock Chrysler, Inc. sought judicial review, but the district court dismissed the petition on the grounds of mootness and lack of a justiciable controversy. While Rimrock’s appeal was pending, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that section 747 of the United States Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 preempted state regulation of new dealerships issued under certain dealership protest laws. The Montana Supreme Court dismissed Rimrock’s appeal. On remand, Rimrock moved to vacate the Department’s administrative decision and to dismiss the the judicial review proceeding on the ground that section 747 preempted Montana dealer protest laws and deprived the state of subject matter jurisdiction to hear the administrative claim. The district court denied Rimrock’s motion and dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the district court’s order denying Rimrock’s motion to vacate and to dismiss, holding that Rimrock waived its section 747 preemption defense when it entered into the settlement agreement; and (2) reversed the district court’s order dismissing Rimrock’s petition for judicial review, holding that Rimrock’s petition involved a justifiable controversy, and the court erred in concluding otherwise. View "Rimrock Chrysler, Inc. v. Lithia Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who operated a cattle ranch, owned a truck that had been modified with the attachment of a feedbox, hoist and tailgate. Plaintiff was cited for violating Mont. Code Ann. 15-70-330 after a Montana Department of Transportation (MDOT) officer discovered that the fuel in the tank of Plaintiff's vehicle was dyed and in excess of the legal concentration allowed to be in a fuel tank in a non-exempt vehicle being driven on a public highway. Plaintiff requested a review of his citation, arguing that the modifications made to his vehicle rendered its primary use off-road and off-highway, and therefore, he was entitled to a special exemption from the prohibition against dyed fuel on public roadways. After a hearing, MDOT determined Plaintiff was not entitled to any exemption. The State Tax Appeal Board (STAB) affirmed. The district court affirmed, determining that Plaintiff's vehicle's alterations simply enhanced its capability to transport property, whether on a public highway or on a ranch. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by affirming STAB's determination that Plaintiff violated section 15-70-330 and that his truck was not entitled to a special exemption under Mont. Admin. R. 18.10.110(1) and (2). View "Coleman v. State ex rel. Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law

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Faith Malpeli brought an inverse condemnation action against the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), seeking compensation for the alleged taking of her property as a result of the reconstruction of Montana Highway 191 near Big Sky during a highway safety improvement project. A jury found that MDT had not taken a property right belonging to Malpeli, and therefore did not reach the question of compensation. Malpeli appealed, arguing that the District Court erred by: (1) denying Malpeli's motions for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial; (2) excluding Malpeli's appraiser from testifying; and (3) allowing MDT to disclose to the jury an offer of compromise it had made to Malpeli before this action was filed. MDT cross-appealed, arguing that the District Court erred by denying its motion for partial summary judgment before trial. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court determined that the motion for summary judgment should have been granted, and therefore affirmed the judgment in favor of MDT. View "Malpeli v. Montana" on Justia Law

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Oliver Arlington was employed by Miller's Trucking as a log truck driver and loader operator pursuant to an oral employment agreement. For his work, Miller's paid Arlington twenty-five percent of the "load rate" as calculated by Miller's. Arlington, however, asserted that according to the parties' oral agreement, he should have been paid a salary in the form of annual wages. Arlington filed a wage claim, seeking the pay he alleged he was owed in regular and overtime wages. The Department of Labor and Industry's bureau dismissed Arlington's claim for lack of merit and lack of sufficient evidence. On appeal, a bureau hearing officer dismissed Arlington's claim. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the hearing officer acted arbitrarily and capriciously in failing to require Miller's to produce material requested by Arlington and in refusing to admit tendered evidence, prejudicing the substantial rights of Arlington, and the district court erred in affirming the hearing officer's judgment; and (2) the hearing officer and district court incorrectly determined that Arlington engaged in activities of a character directly affecting the safety of the operation of motor vehicles in interstate commerce and thus was exempt from overtime requirements. Remanded. View "Arlington v. Miller's Trucking, Inc." on Justia Law

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The State brought a complaint against BNSF Railway Co. ("BNSF") in November 2009 seeking a declaratory judgment requiring BNSF to abide by the terms of a 1984 agreement between them and a declaration that BNSF was in violation of that agreement; specific performance by BNSF of the agreement, and damages for BNSF's alleged breach of the agreement. The State subsequently filed an application for a preliminary injunction in June 2010 to prohibit BNSF from terminating the payment to the State and its short line operator per loaded car for each car handled in interchanges as required by Section 9 of the agreement. At issue was whether the district court's order granting the preliminary injunction was an abuse of discretion. The court held that the district court manifestly abused its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction where it went beyond the State's requested relief and effectively ordered specific performance on the agreement under new terms substantially different than the prior agreed upon terms which severely limited termination of the new interchange agreement and was never part of the 1984 or 1986 agreements. Accordingly, the court reversed the order and resolved the injunction, remanding for further proceedings.