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Ohio Midland, Inc. v. Proctor

November 28, 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 AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration and Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Instanter First Amended Complaint. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration and DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Instanter First Amended Complaint.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

On September 12, 1922, the United States Congress authorized the construction, operation and maintenance of a bridge across the Ohio River in order to connect the City of Benwood, West Virginia and the City of Bellaire, Ohio. Congress expressly reserved to itself the right to alter, amend or repeal its authorization. The bridge was opened to traffic in 1926 and is commonly referred to as the "Bellaire Bridge" (hereinafter, the "Bridge").

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") purchased the existing bridge ramp on the Ohio side of the river from IBC and demolished the ramp for the construction of Ohio Route 7.

On March 22, 1991, Plaintiff, Roger Barack ("Barack") purchased the remaining portion of the Bridge from IBC, intending to continue the operation of the Bridge as a toll bridge to serve the Bellaire and Benwood communities. When Barack purchased the Bridge, he purportedly believed that ODOT was working on plans to reconnect the Ohio side of the Bridge to the main part of the Bridge so that the Bridge could reopen to traffic. ODOT later decided, however, that it would neither reconnect the Bridge in Ohio, nor allow Barack to build a ramp to the Bridge. Barack then assigned any and all interests he had in the remaining Bridge assets to co-plaintiff, Ohio Midland, Inc. ("Ohio Midland").

The U.S. Coast Guard (the "Coast Guard") adjudged the Bridge to be an "unreasonable obstruction to navigation," and, accordingly, it issued orders for Plaintiff Barack to remove the Bridge. Further, the Coast Guard issued orders for the payment of $300,000 plus interest and administrative costs as civil penalties for Barack's alleged failure to comply with its order of removal.*fn1

B. Procedural History

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

In general, Plaintiffs assert Claims 1 through 4 of the Original Complaint against ODOT Defendants for (1) damages to the remainder of the Bridge caused by ODOT's destruction of the Ohio-side ramp; (2) the fair market value of salvage materials from the area of the ramp acquired by ODOT; (3) damages caused by ODOT's failure to replace the ramp in order to allow the Bridge to reopen; and (4) damages due to ODOT's impeding travel over the Bridge without authorization expressly reserved by Congress. Plaintiffs assert in Claim 5 that, should the Court choose not to compel ODOT Defendants to replace the ramp, the Court should alternatively find the Bridge "abandoned" by the Plaintiffs, and conclude that, pursuant to Ohio and West Virginia laws, the remainder of the Bridge would revert to the owners of the land. Plaintiffs assert Claim 5 against Defendants Manchin, Benwood, Collins and NSR on the basis that the State of West Virginia, the City of Benwood, the U.S. Coast Guard, and NSR may each have a propriety interest in the land upon which the Bridge is built and may, therefore, be responsible for its removal. In Claims 6 and 7, Plaintiffs maintain that if the Court concludes that the Bridge is "abandoned," Plaintiffs no longer own the Bridge and the Court should enjoin the Coast Guard from ordering Plaintiffs to remove the Bridge or pay the civil penalties, or alternatively, order ODOT Defendants to pay such removal costs and penalties. Finally, in Claim 8, Plaintiffs asserted that because they disagree with the Coast Guard as to whether the Coast Guard has jurisdiction over the Bridge, the Court should make a judicial interpretation of the extent of the Coast Guard's authority.

Plaintiffs request various forms of relief in their Original Complaint. First, Plaintiffs ask the Court to (a) order ODOT Defendants to construct a vehicular ramp over Ohio State Route 7 to permit the use of the Bridge for vehicular traffic and (b) enjoin ODOT Defendants from impeding Plaintiffs' use of the Bridge as a toll bridge. Second, Plaintiffs request that should the Court order ODOT to construct a ramp, Plaintiffs should also be awarded damages for their loss of toll profits from the date of removal of the ramp to the date of completion of the new ramp and the reopening of the bridge to vehicular traffic. Third, Plaintiffs contend that should the Court choose not to order ODOT to construct a new ramp, the Court should alternatively order ODOT to file appropriation proceedings to determine the amount of damages due to Plaintiffs for the remainder of the Bridge in their possession at the time ODOT allegedly "took" the economic use of the remainder of Bridge when it acquired the Ohio-side ramp. Fourth, Plaintiffs request money damages for the salvage materials of the ramp, and for ...


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