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Archive for the ‘Transportation Law’ Category

In April 2005, Alicia Gonzales ended up with a blood alcohol content level that was twice the legal limit after drinking at an all-day business luncheon, which began at a Chili’s restaurant and concluded in a pair of bars eight hours later. Four pharmaceutical representatives—two from Schering Corp., one from Abbott Laboratories, and one from Merck & Co—had taken Gonzales and her colleagues out for food and drinks that day. After leaving a bar, Gonzales was speeding and crashed her car into another car driven by Gina Delfino, who was seriously hurt along with her passengers. Delfino’s son did not survive.

Delfino sued the bars and restaurant that had served Gonzales, as well as the pharmaceutical representatives and their employers. The trial court dismissed the pharmaceutical defendants from the case, however, finding that they did not owe Delfino any duty under New Mexico’s Liquor Liability Act. On appeal, the New Mexico Supreme Court reversed the trial court, noting that Delfino had “properly characterized [the] pharmaceutical defendants as social hosts under the Liquor Liability Act."

For the full story, click here.

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in Indianapolis challenged Mayflower Transit’s reduction of the drivers’ per-mile rate through "chargebacks" for public injury insurance. Federal law requires motor carriers like Mayflower Transit to have insurance on all vehicles for public injury and damage. The insurance requirement prevents carriers from taking too few precautions and then hiding behind the "corporate shield of limited investors’ liability" when accidents happen. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that chargebacks for the cost of insurance are legal because actual insurers—and not motor carriers—are the ones selling the insurance:

The regulation requires motor carriers to purchase insurance underwritten by real insurers, so that persons injured by a motor carrier’s operations may find a source of compensation more reliable than the motor carrier itself, which is often thinly capitalized.

The court also noted that owner-operators will pay for insurance "indirectly (through lower rates per mile) if they do not pay through a chargeback."

For the full story, click here.

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Owner-Operator Indep. Drivers Assoc. v. United Van Lines, LLC, No. 07-3829.

Several individual owner-operators of tractor-trailers leased their trucks to United Van Lines, LLC (“United”).  The owner-operators filed suit against United for violations of federal truth in leasing regulations.  United file a motion to dismiss, arguing that the owner-operators’ claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations found in 49 U.S.C. 14705(c).  The trial court agreed and dismissed the claims.

On appeal, the owner-operators argued that, because 49 U.S.C. 14704(a)(2) contains no statute of limitations, the general four-year statute of limitations applies.  The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and noted that the legislative history relied upon by the trial court could not establish the four-year statute of limitations was “demonstrably at odds” with congressional intent.  The court noted it was not in their power to re-write statutes without such a finding.

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