Bus Transportation Law Firm

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Verdicts and Settlements


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Sampling of Firm’s Cases

Federal Estate Tax (US Tax Court)

The Internal Revenue Service proposed a multi-million dollar increase in the value of real estate owned by the decedent’s corporation. The IRS contended that the fair market value of environmentally contaminated real estate was its value if cleaned up, as dictated by State Court decisions in real estate tax appeal cases. We were able to convince the IRS that the value of the real estate was zero, since a willing buyer would not be found for the contaminated property. The successful resolution of this issue resulted in a tax refund of $660,000.

Parking Lot Liability – Airport Parking

A client of the firm parked his car in a long-term lot adjacent to Newark Airport while traveling on business. When he returned the car had been vandalized. The Trial Court awarded damages based upon the fact that the parking lot “guaranteed” safety and care in its advertisements, which had been seen by plaintiff. On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the damage award, pointing out that there was one entrance-exit to the facility, the lot was surrounded by 14 foot fences topped by razor wire, and that the only conclusion that could be made was that the damage was done by an employee or someone working with the employee’s knowledge and consent.

Consumer Fraud – State Court – Kitchen Cabinetry

A client of the firm contracted with defendant for the purchase and installation of new kitchen cabinets. Soon after the installation was completed, the finish started to come off the cabinets and the wood began to warp. After a three day trial, the Court awarded plaintiffs treble damages under Consumer Fraud in the amount of $39,000 and additionally, awarded attorneys fees and costs of $35,000.

Consumer Fraud – Federal Court

A client of the firm owned a limousine company that expanded into the area of party buses by purchasing a used minibus taken back in trade by an out of state dealer. The bus had been sold with a guarantee that it would pass NJ DOT inspection. When the bus failed inspection because of failing to meet interior height specifications, the bus was retrofitted by the manufacturer to increase the interior height. Unfortunately, the retrofitting caused the bus to leak during rain storms, thereby harming the client’s business. Suit was brought against the out of state dealer and the out of state manufacturer under the NJ Consumer Fraud Act resulting in a settlement in favor of our client of $30,000.

Transportation – Interstate Commerce Commission – Intrastate

Two clients of the firm owned and operated commuter vans that operated, for the most part, between Northern NJ and New York City under ICC authority. Occasional trips were made by the companies’ drivers along Kennedy Blvd. in Hudson County which were intrastate in nature. In defense of a suit filed by a local intrastate operator seeking injunctive relief to prevent the intrastate operation of the vans, we were able to establish that the interstate routes granted by the ICC included intrastate service along the same route with or without continuing across state lines.

Transportation – Office Of Administrative Law – Hotel Bus

A client of the firm operated a hotel bus to transport its hotel patrons to and from the Boardwalk in a NJ seaside resort. A transportation company, seeking to monopolize the passenger traffic in the area, brought an action to have the hotel’s transportation service terminated by the NJ DOT. We were able to prevail based upon the legal argument that the NJ DOT could only regulate “for hire” service, and the “free service” offered by the hotel to its patrons was outside the ambit of DOT Regulations.

Insurance Company Fraud

A bus company client of the firm purchased a policy of liability insurance through its broker to cover its fleet of approximately 100 buses. It was soon determined that the insurance company was not licensed to sell insurance in NJ, had denied coverage for all claims, and denied the existence of the policy which its agents had issued. After a 3 week trial, we were able to prove to the Court that the insurance company had authorized its agents to sell insurance, the agents did in fact represent to the broker that they were authorized to sell the policy to our client, and the insurance company had therefore breached its contract with our client and was required to return all premiums collected, more than $250,000. The case was taken on appeal to the NJ Superior Court Appellate Division where the Trial Court’s decision was unanimously affirmed.

Transportation – Interstate Commerce – Bus Routes

A client of the firm provided transportation services from NYC to the various prisons in upstate NY. Service was provided under authority granted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The NYS DOT contended that the bus routes were entirely in NY State, and therefore, NYS DOT Authority was required. A large fine was proposed for illegal operations by an unauthorized carrier. We prevailed in an Administrative Hearing, demonstrating to the Administrative Law Judge that the shortest and fastest route to upstate NY from NYC was to travel through the Lincoln Tunnel to NJ, and then over NJ highways to NY State, thereby legitimizing the federally approved bus routes.

Municipal Court – Motor Vehicle

A driver for a client of the firm was cited by local police for driving a bus with no insurance, no registration and fictitious plates. In fact, the driver had mistakenly taken a bus from our client’s business location which had not yet been retitled and registered, or an insurance card issued. The driver, if convicted, would have lost his driving privileges for 1 year. We were able to prove to the local Municipal Court that the bus was covered by insurance under a fleet filing made with NJDOT and that the title was in the process of being transferred, resulting in a dismissal of these charges, along with a guilty pleas to an unclear plate, resulting in a fine of $150.

Elder Law – Discretionary Trust – Nursing Home

An elderly client of the firm had transferred substantially all of his assets (stock certificates) into an irrevocable discretionary Trust giving his Trustee sole discretion whether to distribute assets to or for the client’s benefit. The client thereafter entered a nursing home and his family applied for Medicaid assistance to cover the cost of nursing home care. The State of NJ denied the application for Medicaid assistance based upon the fact that a brokerage firm which had received the securities for custodial and management purposes, had delayed the formal transfer of the securities into the name of the Trustee. We prevailed by establishing to the satisfaction of the Court that the transfer of the securities, accomplished by the execution of an irrevocable stock power and the physical delivery of the stock certificates to the Trustee, effectively transferred ownership to the Trustee irrespective of any delay by the brokerage firm in arranging for new certificates to be issued. The firm’s client was determined to have qualified for Medicaid assistance which resulted in the retention of $150,000 by the client’s estate.

Consumer Law – Automobile Lease

A client of the firm had leased an SUV from a local dealer and made 30 of the required 36 payments. A default occurred with regard to payment and the SUV was repossessed. Suit was filed against our client for the remaining payments due, the loss in value to the vehicle based upon its sale at auction, attorneys’ fees and interest. We persuaded the leasing company that they had failed to follow NJ consumer law requiring the leasing company to provide the lessee with a 1 day period to review (and rescind) the lease after it was signed before it became effective. The lease had in fact been signed at delivery. The claim for $13,000 by the leasing company was dropped and the case dismissed.

Personal Injury – Claim Against Hospital

A client of the firm was a patient in an area hospital. The client and her family noticed that water was dripping on the floor of the room’s bathroom and complained to the hospital staff repeatedly to correct the problem. The hospital staff ignored the complaints. Our client slipped on the wet floor and injured herself, requiring her to extend her hospital stay by 3 days. The hospital and its insurance company denied liability for the occurrence. Suit was filed and following a jury trial, an Essex County jury awarded our client $35,000 for her pain and suffering.

Transportation – Federal Preemption – Intrastate Bus Route

A client of the firm requested that we apply to the NJDOT for the commuter bus route which we knew was being abandoned by another bus company. Realizing that the NJDOT would delay approval pending receipt of competing applications for the service, we applied to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and were granted approval for an extended route which crossed into NY. A competing bus company filed suit seeking to invalidate our client’s route authority, since we did not have NJDOT approval for a NJ bus route. Our argument to the Court was based upon the Federal preemption theory by which Federal law takes precedence over State law, which in this case, resulted in a decision allowing our client to operate the route without interference from either NJDOT or the competing applicant.

Wills – Probate – Handwritten Will

We were asked by a client to probate a handwritten Will of a deceased relative which was unsigned and undated. We submitted the Will for probate in the Superior Court and successfully argued that NJ permitted a Will to be probated where it was handwritten by the deceased person, was signed by him and dated. In this case, the person wrote “I, John Smith, make this Will on July 1, 1990”. The Court agreed that “I, John Smith” constituted a signature and the date in that sentence constituted the dating of the document. All statutory requirements had been met.

Insurance Company – Negligence

A client of the firm was involved in an incident in which a passenger claimed serious injuries as a result of a fall while exiting the bus. The injured party sued the bus company client for negligence and sought $1,000,000 for his pain and suffering. Our client’s insurance company denied coverage for the claim, taking a position that the bus was not listed on the insurance policy as a covered vehicle. In an action brought by the insurance company for Declaratory Judgment, we satisfied the Court that our client had submitted the vehicle information to the insurance agent, had paid the premium charged for the vehicle, had received an insurance ID Card for the vehicle, and additionally, the insurance company had made a filing with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration covering all vehicles in our client’s fleet. The Court then granted Summary Judgment in favor of our client which required the insurance company to provide coverage for the loss, which they then settled for $400,000, the amount which our client saved as a result of the decision.

Insurance Company – Negligence

A client of the firm purchased an insurance policy for his fleet of buses based upon a proposal which contained a deductible of $10,000 on his liability claims coverage. The insurance company paid out a number of claims and billed our client for the first $25,000 of each claim. When our client disputed the billings, suit was filed by the insurance company, which we defended. During the course of pre-Trial discovery, we established to the satisfaction of a Court appointed Arbitrator that the insurance company failed to deliver the insurance policy to our client and was unable or unwilling to produce the signed insurance proposal. As a result, we prevailed as to our position that the policy contained a $10,000 deductible, resulting in a $50,000 savings to our client.

Administrative Hearing – NJ Motor Fuel Tax

A bus company client of the firm believed that it was entitled to an exemption from the NJ Motor Fuel Tax granted to regular route bus operators in the State. The NJ Division of Taxation had taken a position during the audit of our client’s Returns that its bus operations were not commuter operations, but were casino bus operations traveling to and from the Atlantic City casinos. We filed a Protest and in the Administrative Hearing satisfied the Division of Taxation that the Statute provided the exemption for “regular route” operators, and the operations to and from Atlantic City were issued by the NJ Department of Transportation as “regular route” operations. As a result of this Decision, our client saved $220,000.

Transportation – Horse Drawn Trolleys

Our firm represents a not for profit organization that utilizes horse drawn trolleys to transport tourists in an historical area of the State. The NJ Department of Transportation made an initial determination that it would no longer allow the use of the horse drawn vehicles to transport passengers. We argued before the NJDOT that the use of the vehicles was necessary to preserve the character of the area, did not cause any adverse effect to motorized passenger traffic in the immediate area, and prevailed.

Chancery – Parking Lot Liability – Vandalism

Our firm represented an individual whose automobile had been vandalized in the parking lot of the suburban office building where she worked. We proved to the satisfaction of the Court that the owner-manager of the building had been made aware of previous incidents of vandalism and other suspicious acts, such that he was charged with an affirmative duty to protect the occupants of the building and their possessions. The building owner was ordered to reimburse our client for her damages.

Chancery – Automobile Manufacturer

A client of our firm, in a related case to the immediately preceding matter, brought an action against Nissan as a result of the theft of xenon headlights from her automobile. We asked the Court to order Nissan to terminate the automobile lease without penalty and to replace the automobile with another model without xenon headlights. We were able to establish through discovery that Nissan was aware of the high incidence of xenon headlight theft and resulting damage primarily in the NYC Metropolitan area, and withheld that information from its customers in order to promote sales. As the result of a settlement conference with the Judge, Nissan agreed to terminate the lease without penalty, and to replace the automobile with a newer model specially designed without xenon headlights.

Insurance Law – Death Claim – Reinstatement Of Cancelled Policy

The father of our firm’s client was killed when his car was struck by a train at a railroad crossing. The deceased person’s family filed an insurance claim under the deceased person’s life insurance policy. The claim was denied because the policy had been cancelled prior to death for failure to pay premiums. Our investigation determined that the deceased person did not speak English – he only spoke Spanish. Prior to his death, he was visited by an insurance agent who persuaded the man to withdraw the cash value from his existing policy and use that money to purchase a new policy from the agent. The man believed that the money paid to the agent was a prepayment of premiums, and as a result, did not submit any further payments. When he received notices of cancellation of the policy, he failed to understand them because he could not read English, and we proved that he lived alone. When we appeared for trial, the insurance company’s attorneys agreed to settle our claim for $100,000 (the policy was for $150,000). We then proceeded to submit our claim on the old policy, after determining that the withdrawal of the cash value, did not cancel the policy. As a result, we collected an additional $35,000, for a total recovery of $135,000 for the man’s family.

Transportation – Federal Preemption – Intrastate Bus Route

A driver for one of our bus clients was issued a Summons, returnable in Municipal Court, for conducting an intrastate bus route without the benefit of an NJ MVC Certificate. The driver was operating an interstate route under authority granted by the FMCSA which regulates interstate bus operations and authorizes intrastate service along the interstate route. The MVC Inspector alleged that he had asked the driver where he had picked up the passengers and the driver allegedly advised the Inspector that they were picked up in Union City, NJ. Our argument to the Court was based upon the Federal preemption theory by which Federal law takes precedence over State law, which in this case would allow our client to operate the route without interference from the NJ MVC. The Court considered the proofs, which included Tunnel toll receipts, time and date stamped, and was satisfied that the bus did originate its trip in NYC and was therefore permitted to pick up passengers in NJ while conducting its interstate trip.

Collection Case – Defense – Statue of Limitations

A client of our firm was sued by Capital One for an old credit card debt which had more than tripled because of interest, late payment penalties and legal fees and costs. The collection law firm was persistent and sought the entry of Summary Judgment. We cross-moved for Summary Judgment based upon the credit card agreement which required Delaware law to apply to the transaction, even though our client lives in NJ. Under Delaware law, a 3 year S/L applies to open accounts, whereas NJ has a 6 year S/L. Inasmuch as the case was filed more than 3 years after the last charge or payment, the claim was barred and the Court agreed. This case was handled by our firm as a pro bono matter to assist a person who required legal services but could not afford our normal fees.