Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Transportation Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the West Virginia Public Service Commission ruling that its jurisdiction under state law to regulate a company that was operating in West Virginia solely as a contractor for a federal agency was preempted by federal law, holding that there was no error in the Commission's determination.The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the federal agency in this case, was impelled to give the company, Community Pastor Care, LLC (CPC), the subject contract to meet a goal expressed by Congress in 38 U.S.C. 8127(a). Metro Tristate, Inc. filed this case asking that the Commission bar CPC from transporting VA passengers until it received a permit from the Commission. The Commission concluded that its jurisdiction to regulate CPC was preempted by federal law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission correctly determined that its jurisdiction to regulate CPC was preempted by federal law. View "Metro Tristate, Inc. v. Public Service Commission of W. Va." on Justia Law

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Appellant SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority (the “JRA”) was a joint authority formed pursuant to the MAA, governed by a sixteen member Board, with each of the eight member counties appointing two members. In addition to the MAA, the Board’s operations were governed by the JRA’s bylaws and a code of conduct. Appellee Susquehanna Union Railroad Company (“SURC”) was a third-party rail line operator. The JRA began the process to award a new operating agreement. At an October 2014 Board meeting, the JRA’s counsel announced because the Board had sixteen members, a nine-vote majority was required for the Board to act. Carload Express received twenty-four points, SURC received twenty-three, and Northern Plains Railroad received thirteen. A roll call vote was taken on the motion to award the contract to Carload and, of the ten voting Board members, seven voted in favor and three against. When certain Board members questioned the nine vote requirement for action, the Board voted unanimously to table the decision to award the operating agreement to Carload pending further review of the JRA’s bylaws and the applicable law. After the meeting, Carload submitted its position to the JRA, arguing that it had been awarded the operating agreement based upon the seven-to-three vote. The JRA responded by filing an action requesting a declaration upholding its use of the nine vote requirement. The Supreme Court granted discretionary appeal to determine whether Section 5610(e) of the Pennsylvania Municipality Authorities Act's use of the phrase “members present” abrogated the common law rule that a simple majority (a majority vote of the voting members who make up the quorum of a municipal authority) carried a vote. Because the Court concluded that it did not, it affirmed the Commonwealth Court. View "Seda-Cog Joint Rail Auth v. Carload Express et al" on Justia Law

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Taxi companies and taxi medallion owners sued Uber, alleging violations of the Unfair Practices Act’s (UPA) prohibition against below-cost sales (Bus & Prof. Code, 17043) and of the Unfair Competition Law (section 17200). The UPA makes it unlawful “for any person engaged in business within this State to sell any article or product at less than the cost thereof to such vendor, or to give away any article or product, for the purpose of injuring competitors or destroying competition” but does not apply “[t]o any service, article or product for which rates are established under the jurisdiction of the [California] Public Utilities Commission [(CPUC)] . . . and sold or furnished by any public utility corporation.” Uber is a “public utility corporation” under section 17024 and is subject to CPUC’s jurisdiction. CPUC has conducted extensive regulatory proceedings in connection with Uber’s business but has not yet established the rates for any Uber service or product.The trial court ruled the exemption applies when the CPUC has jurisdiction to set rates, regardless of whether it has yet done so, and dismissed the case. The court of appeal affirmed, reaching “the same conclusion as to the applicability of section 17024(1) as have three California federal district courts, two within the last year, in cases alleging identical UPA claims against Uber.” View "Uber Technologies Pricing Cases" on Justia Law

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The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) appealed the Transportation Board’s order granting judgment to W.M. Schultz Construction, Inc. in this contract dispute. Schultz entered into a contract with VTrans in December 2013 to replace four bridges destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene. Three bridges were completed without incident. This dispute centered on the fourth bridge, referred to as “Bridge #19.” The Bridge #19 project involved the construction of a single-span steel-girder bridge over the White River in Rochester, Vermont. The west abutment was to be placed on a deep pile foundation and the east abutment (Abutment #2) was to be placed on ledge. The work was to begin in April 2014 and be completed in a single construction season. The Board concluded that Schultz encountered “differing site conditions” in carrying out its bridge-construction project and that it was entitled to an equitable adjustment for costs it incurred as a result. VTrans appealed, arguing the Board misread the contract materials and otherwise erred in granting judgment to Schultz. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "W.M. Schultz Construction, Inc. v. Vermont Agency of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed and rendered judgment as a matter of law for Trinity, the manufacturers of the ET-Plus guardrail system under an exclusive licensing agreement with Texas A&M University. Relator filed suit under the False Claims Act, alleging that Trinity failed to disclose fabrication changes to the ET-Plus beyond the change from five- to four-inch guide channel. The district court denied Trinity's motion for judgment as a matter of law and entered final judgment for relator and the United States. However, the court held that it need not consider the issue of post-judgment relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) because Trinity was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of materiality. In this case, given FHWA's unwavering position that the ET-Plus was and remains eligible for federal reimbursement, Trinity's alleged misstatements were not material to its payment decisions. View "Harman v. Trinity Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

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Under the Urbanized Area Formula Program, 49 U.S.C. 5307, the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) administers grant funding to urban transit programs for “operating costs of equipment and facilities for use in public transportation.” Recipients must submit “financial, operating, and asset condition information” to the National Transit Database. The agency apportions grants based, in part, on the number of Vehicle Revenue Miles (VRM) that accrue while a vehicle is “in revenue service,” available to the general public. In 2005, the Illinois House of Representatives called for a performance audit of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The audit concluded that the CTA, from possibly as early as 1986, had been overstating its VRM and had received higher than justified UAFP disbursements. Notified of the report, the FTA required that CTA revise its data from 2011 forward. In 2012, a nonprofit watchdog organization contacted the Department of Justice requesting an investigation into the CTA’s reporting practices. The group then filed suit under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, agreeing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the allegations of wrongdoing had been publicly disclosed at the time the action was filed. View "Cause of Action v. CTA" on Justia Law

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The FAA may “delegate to a qualified private person . . . the examination, testing, and inspection necessary to issue a certificate … and … issuing the certificate,” 49 U.S.C. 44702(d)(1), and may rescind delegation “at any time for any reason.” Airworthiness Representative-Maintenance (DAR-T) authorization to conduct aircraft inspections and issue airworthiness certificates has no expiration. Burdue was appointed as a DAR-T in 2001. In 2013, Burdue’s supervisors were informed of issues related to Burdue’s export certifications. The FAA’s Special Emphasis Investigations Team (SEIT) concluded that Burdue performed multiple aircraft inspections out of his assigned geographic area without authorization and had issued export certificates to aircraft owned by his wife, a conflict of interest. After review of Burdue’s response, Burdue’s certificate was revoked, both “for cause,” 14 C.F.R. 183.15(b)(4) and under the discretionary-revocation provision, 14 C.F.R. 183.15(b)(6). An Appeal Panel affirmed. Burdue brought a Bivens action, claiming due process violations and wrongful termination, then filed statutory claims in the Sixth Circuit. The district court stayed the Bivens proceedings. The Sixth Circuit declined to review the statutory claims because the FAA’s decision is committed to agency discretion and declined to review the constitutional claims that belong in the district court View "Burdue v. Fed. Aviation Admin." on Justia Law

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Salem, under contract, coordinated Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) shipments around the country. Estes, a federal motor carrier, handled some shipments under its common carrier tariff, without a written contract. The Salem-MCCS contract provided that Salem would pay carriers directly and invoice MCCS. Salem agreed not to represent itself as a representative of MCCS. All bills of lading indicated that “third party freight charges” were to be billed to “Marine Corps Exchange C/O Salem Logistics.” Delivery receipts specified that charges should be billed to the “Marine Corps Exchange” and were signed by a representative of the MCCS or MCX delivery location. MCCS paid Salem for some of the shipments; Salem never paid Estes. After becoming aware that Salem was not paying carriers, MCCS began paying carriers directly, for shipments for which it had not yet paid Salem. Estes sued Salem and the government, seeking to recover $147,645.33. The Claims Court dismissed, finding that there was no privity of contract between Estes and the government and rejecting a claim under 49 U.S.C. 13706, which governs the liability of consignees for shipping charges incurred by a common carrier. The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded, concluding that the bills of lading were sufficient to establish privity. View "Estes Express Lines v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a qui tam action against DHL under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq., alleging that DHL billed the United States jet-fuel surcharges on shipments that were transported exclusively by ground transportation. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's dismissal for failure to satisfy a statutory notice requirement. The court concluded that the 180-day rule, which barred a challenge to a shipping charge before the STB, could not apply to a qui tam action under the FCA. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "United States v. DHL Express (USA), Inc." on Justia Law

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Access to the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario necessitated traversing city streets. The state contracted with the Company, which owns the Bridge, to construct new approaches from interstate roads. The contract specified separate jobs for the state and the Company. In 2010, the state obtained a state court order, finding the Company in breach of contract and requiring specific performance. The Company sought an order to open ramps constructed by the state, asserting that this was necessary to complete its work. The court denied the motion and held Company officials in contempt. In a 2012 settlement, the court ordered the Company to relinquish its responsibilities to the state and establish a $16 million fund to ensure completion. Plaintiffs, trucking companies that use the bridge, sought an injunction requiring the state to immediately open the ramps. The district court dismissed claims under the dormant Commerce Clause, the motor carriers statute, 49 U.S.C. 14501(c), and the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, 49 U.S.C. 31114(a)(2). The Sixth Circuit affirmed. For purposes of the Commerce Clause and statutory claims, the state is acting in a proprietary capacity and, like the private company, is a market participant when it joins the bridge company in constructing ramps. View "Mason & Dixon Lines Inc. v. Steudle" on Justia Law