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Ohio Midland, Inc. v. Proctor

June 13, 2006

OHIO MIDLAND, INC., ET AL. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GORDON PROCTOR, DIRECTOR OF OHIO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Algenon L. Marbley

Magistrate Judge Abel

OPINION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by Defendant Joe Manchin III ("Manchin"), in his capacity as the Governor of West Virginia. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Manchin's Motion.

II. STATEMENT OF FACTS*fn1

A. Background

On September 12, 1922, the United States Congress authorized, by House Bill 11901, to construct, maintain and operate a bridge and approaches across the Ohio River in order to connect the City of Benwood, WV and the City of Bellaire, Ohio. Complaint ¶ 3. In issuing the House Bill, Congress expressly reserved to itself the right to alter, amend or repeal its authorization. Id. The bridge is commonly referred to as the "Bellaire Bridge" (hereinafter, "the Bridge"). Id.

The Interstate Bridge Company ("IBC") constructed, operated and maintained the Bridge as a "toll bridge" until 1991, at which time the Ohio Department of Transportation ("ODOT"), having the right of appropriation, purchased the existing bridge ramp on the Ohio side of the river from IBC for the construction of Ohio Route 7. Id. ¶ 4.

Defendants ODOT and the IBC allegedly entered into two agreements regarding the Bridge. See Complaint ¶ 10-11. First, on December 5, 1990, ODOT and IBC entered the first agreement (hereinafter, "Agreement #1"), a contract for the sale of the real property constituting the area of the existing ramp on the Ohio side of the river, which made no provision for any damages to the residue of the Bridge owned by IBC. Id. ¶ 10. Second, on January 7, 1991, ODOT and IBC executed the second agreement (hereinafter, "Agreement #2"), a contract through which both parties alleged payment for the real estate and damages to the residue of the Bridge. Id. ¶ 11. Agreement #2 allegedly provided for the exact amount of compensation as Agreement #1, which, in turn, provided compensation for the land only. Id. ¶ 11.

On March 22, 1991, the remaining portion of the Bridge, and the assets of IBC were purchased by Plaintiff, Roger Barack ("Barack"), and all assets were assigned to him by bill of sale. Id. Subsequent to the aforementioned asset transfer, IBC became a defunct corporation. Id. According to Plaintiffs' Complaint, when Barack purchased the Bridge, ODOT was working on plans to re-connect the Ohio side of the Bridge to the main part of the Bridge, so that it could re-open to traffic. Complaint ¶ 5. ODOT later decided, however, that it would neither reconnect the Bridge in Ohio, nor allow Plaintiffs to build a ramp to the Bridge. Id. ¶ 7. Thereafter, Barack assigned any and all interests he had to the remaining Bridge assets to co-Plaintiff, Ohio Midland, Inc. ("Ohio Midland"). Id. ¶ 8.

The U.S. Coast Guard (the "Coast Guard") recently adjudged the Bridge to be an "unreasonable obstruction to navigation," and, accordingly, it has issued orders for Plaintiff Barack to remove the Bridge. Complaint ¶ 9. Further, the Coast Guard has issued orders for the payment of $300,000.00 plus interest and administrative costs as civil penalties for Barack's alleged failure to comply with its order of removal.*fn2

B. Procedural History

On December 5, 2006, Barack and Ohio Midland (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed their initial complaint (the "Complaint") against the following defendants: (1) Gordon Proctor, in his official capacity as Director of ODOT; (2) ODOT; (3) Jim Spain, in his official capacity as Deputy Director of ODOT District 11 (collectively, "ODOT Defendants"); (4) Admiral Thomas H. Collins ("Collins"), in his capacity as Commandant of the Coast Guard; (5) Joe Manchin III ("Manchin"), in his capacity as Governor of West Virginia; (6) Norfolk Southern Railway Co. ("NSR"), care of CT Corp. System, its statutory agent; and (7) the City of Benwood Mayor's Office, care of Mayor Edward M. Kuca, Jr. ("Kuca") (collectively, "Defendants"). See Complaint ¶ 2.*fn3

Plaintiffs assert the following eight claims against the various Defendants: (1) Plaintiffs bring Claim 1 against the ODOT Defendants alleging that because ODOT did not pay additional consideration when it entered into Agreement #2 with IBC, Agreement #2 is void, entitling Plaintiffs to money damages for the residue and/or remainder of the Bridge caused when ODOT allegedly "took" the Bridge under Agreement #1; (2) Plaintiffs bring Claim 2 against the ODOT Defendants and allege that ODOT breached Agreement #1, depriving Plaintiffs of a fair opportunity to either remove the salvage materials from the Bridge surroundings or to account for the fair market value of those materials, entitling Plaintiffs to money damages; (3) Plaintiffs bring Claim 3 against the ODOT Defendants and assert that ODOT has a duty and obligation to develop specifications for and to build a replacement ramp over State Route 7 to allow Plaintiffs to continue use of the Bridge as a toll bridge; (4) Plaintiffs bring Claim 4 against the ODOT Defendants and assert that ODOT's failure to replace the ramp unilaterally closed the Bridge for traffic without federal permission in violation of House Bill 11901, depriving Plaintiffs of their civil rights under the Commerce Clause pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983; (5) in Claim 5, which Plaintiffs assert against Manchin, Kuca, Collins, and NSR, Plaintiffs claim that should the Court choose not to compel ODOT to construct a ramp to keep the Bridge open, the Court should alternatively deem the Bridge "abandoned" and order that, pursuant to Ohio and West Virginia laws, the remainder of the Bridge must revert to the owners of the land; (6) in Claim 6, Plaintiffs argue that if the Court determines under Claim 5 both that the Bridge is abandoned and that the remainder of the Bridge must revert to the owners of the land, the Court should enjoin the Coast Guard from enforcing its order that Plaintiffs either remove the remainder of the Bridge or pay penalties for failing to ...


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