Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Transportation Law
In re: Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge Antitrust Litigation
Freight shippers (“Plaintiffs”) alleged that the nation’s four largest freight railroads (“Defendants” or “Railroads”) have violated the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1, by engaging in a price-fixing conspiracy to coordinate their fuel surcharge programs as a means to impose supra-competitive total price increases on their shipping customers. Before hearing summary judgment motions, the District Court considered Defendants’ motions to exclude certain evidence on which Plaintiffs rely. Defendants argued the challenged documents were inadmissible under 49 U.S.C. Section 10706(a)(3)(B)(ii)(II) (“Section 10706”) as evidence of the Railroads’ discussions or agreements concerning “interline” traffic. The D.C. Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the District Court’s interpretation of Section 10706, vacated the District Court’s order and remanded for the court to reconsider the evidence at issue. The court held that the District Court’s interpretation of Section 10706 sometimes strays from the literal terms of the statute. The court reasoned that a discussion or agreement “concern[s] an interline movement” only if Defendants meet their burden of showing that the movements at issue are the participating rail carriers’ shared interline traffic. A discussion or agreement need not identify a specific shipper, shipments, or destinations to qualify for exclusion; more general discussions or agreements may suffice. Further, the court held that a carrier’s internal documents need not convey the substance of a discussion or agreement concerning interline movements to qualify for exclusion under the statute. View "In re: Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law
Uber Technologies Pricing Cases
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
Philadelphia Taxi Association, Inc. v. Uber Technologies Inc
Philadelphia taxicabs were required to have a medallion and a certificate of public convenience, which required that vehicles be insured and in proper condition, and mandated that drivers be paid the prevailing minimum wage, be proficient in English, and have appropriate drivers’ licenses. In 2014, 1610 medallions were each worth about $545,000. Uber began operating in Philadelphia without securing medallions or certificates, providing an app to schedule and pay for a ride. Uber does not own or assume responsibility for the vehicles, nor does it hire drivers. A 2016 Pennsylvania law approved Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) using digital apps. TNCs must obtain licenses and comply with insurance and safety standards but set their own fares. Medallion taxicab companies comply with established rates, minimum wages, and have a limited number of vehicles. Nearly 1200 Philadelphia medallion taxicab drivers left their companies to drive for Uber. Medallion taxi rides reduced by about 30 percent. The value of each medallion dropped to approximately $80,000. Taxicab drivers sued under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Inundating the market with Uber vehicles, even if it eliminated competitors, was not anticompetitive; it bolstered competition by offering customers lower prices, more availability, and a high-tech alternative to customary practices. Uber’s ability to operate at a lower cost is not anticompetitive. Uber’s business model does not reflect specific intent to monopolize. Plaintiffs also failed to allege antitrust standing. View "Philadelphia Taxi Association, Inc. v. Uber Technologies Inc" on Justia Law
Joe Sanfelippo Cabs, Inc. v. City of Milwaukee
From 1992-2013, a Milwaukee ordinance limited taxicab permits to those in existence on January 1, 1992 that were renewed. The ordinance lowered the ceiling over time by virtue of the nonrenewals. By 2013 the number of permits had diminished from 370 to 320. The price of permits on the open market soared as high as $150,000. In 2013, after a successful equal protection and substantive due process challenge, the city conducted a lottery, which attracted 1700 permit seekers. Milwaukee had only one taxicab per 1850 city residents, a much lower ratio than comparable cities. The city eliminated the cap in 2014. In the meantime, “ridesharing” companies such as Uber, had diminished the profitability of the existing taxi companies. Plaintiffs, cab companies, alleged that the increased number of permits has taken property without compensation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The taxi companies were aware that there was no guarantee that the ordinance would remain in force indefinitely, and that, were it repealed, they would be faced with new competition that would threaten their profits. The ordinance gave them no property right; its repeal invaded no right conferred by the Constitution. The court similarly rejected state-law claims of breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and equitable estoppel. View "Joe Sanfelippo Cabs, Inc. v. City of Milwaukee" on Justia Law
Ill. Transp. Trade Ass’n v. City of Chicago
Plaintiffs own and operate Chicago taxicabs or livery vehicles or provide services to such companies, such as loans and insurance. Taxi and livery companies are tightly regulated by the city regarding driver and vehicle qualifications, licensing, fares, and insurance. Ride-share services, such as Uber, are less heavily regulated and have a different business model. Chicago’s 2014 ride-share ordinance allows the companies to set their own fares. The plaintiffs challenged the ordinance on four Constitutional and three Illinois-law grounds. The district judge dismissed all but the two claims that accuse the city of denying the equal protection of the laws by allowing the ride-shares to compete with taxi and livery services without being subject to the same regulations. The Seventh Circuit ordered dismissal of all seven claims. There are enough differences between taxi service and ride-share service to justify different regulatory schemes. Chicago has legally chosen deregulation and competition over preserving the traditional taxicab monopolies. A legislature, having created a statutory entitlement, is not precluded from altering or even eliminating the entitlement by later legislation. View "Ill. Transp. Trade Ass'n v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law
Lawson v. Office of Attorney Gen.
In 1983, Appellant, the owner and chief executive officer of an asphalt company, pled guilty to violating the Sherman Antitrust Act for unlawfully bidding on state highway construction contracts. In order to have his company's privilege of bidding on new contracts reinstated, Appellant agreed to cooperate with the Attorney General's (AG) investigation and proffered information pertaining to Appellant's involvement in a scheme to "rig" bids for highway construction contracts with the Kentucky Department of Transportation. In 2009, reporters for several newspapers submitted an Open Records Act (ORA) request to have the proffer disclosed. When Appellant learned the AG intended to release the proper, Appellant brought this action against the AG and ORA reporters seeking to have the release enjoined under the privacy exemption or the law enforcement exemption to the ORA. In 2011, the trial court ruled that the proffer should be released to the ORA requestors. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant did not have standing to invoke the law enforcement exemption provision to the ORA; and (2) matters of sufficient public interest warranted an invasion of Appellant's limited privacy interest in keeping his proffer from being disclosed. View "Lawson v. Office of Attorney Gen." on Justia Law
Dominion Resources Serv. v. 5K Logistics, Inc.
This case involved the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 14706, which set up a framework for the timely filing of claims against carriers for damaged cargo. In this case, it was undisputed that neither the shipper nor the shipping broker filed either a claim or a lawsuit within the prescribed time limitations. Therefore, were the court to create some exception to the statutorily authorized, contractually mandated requirements of prompt filing, the court would blow a hole in the balance struck by the Carmack Amendment and undermine Congress's intent to protect carriers against stale claims. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the district court in favor of the shipping broker and remanded with instructions to dismiss the lawsuit. View "Dominion Resources Serv. v. 5K Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law