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Ohio Midland, Inc. v. Proctor

December 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 on a combined motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Ohio Department of Transportation ("ODOT"), Gordon Proctor, Director of ODOT ("Proctor"), and Jim Spain, District Deputy Director of ODOT, District 11 ("Spain"), (collectively, "ODOT Defendants"). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Combined Motion to Dismiss.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Because the matter before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, the Court will consider the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs. McGee v. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 154 F. Supp. 2d 1308, 1310 (S.D. Ohio 2001).

On September 12, 1922, the United States Congress enacted House Bill 11901, which 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. The Bill incorporated by reference 33 U.S.C. § 491 in which Congress expressly reserved to itself the right to alter, amend, or repeal its authorization:

When, after March 23, 1906, authority is granted by Congress to any persons to construct and maintain a bridge across or over any of the navigable waters of the United States, . . . and when the plans for any bridge to be constructed under [this] title, have been approved by the Secretary it shall not be lawful to deviate from such plans, either before or after completion of the structure, unless the modification of such plans has previously been submitted to and received the approval of the Secretary.

33 U.S.C. § 491.

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 when ODOT, having the right of appropriation, 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.

IBC and ODOT Defendants allegedly entered into two agreements regarding the Bridge. 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. Agreement #1 made no provision for any damages caused to the remainder of the Bridge owned by IBC. Second, on January 7, 1991, ODOT and IBC executed the second agreement (hereinafter, "Agreement #2"), in which both parties agreed that the payment was for the real estate as well as damages to the remainder of the Bridge. Agreement #2 provided for the exact same amount of compensation as Agreement #1, which had included compensation for the real estate only.

On March 22, 1991, Plaintiff Roger Barack ("Barack") purchased the remaining portion of the Bridge from IBC intending to operate the Bridge as a toll bridge. Subsequent to this sale, IBC became defunct. When Barack purchased the Bridge, he purportedly believed that ODOT planned 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. Thereafter, Barack assigned any and all interest 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, on October 18, 2005 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 *fn2

B. Procedural History

On December 5, 2006, Barack and Ohio Midland (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed their initial complaint (the "Complaint"), consisting of eight claims, against the following defendants:

(1) ODOT Defendants; (2) Admiral Thomas H. Collins, Commandant of the Coast Guard; (3) Joe Manchin III, Governor of West Virginia; (4) Norfolk Southern Railway Co., care of CT Corp. System, its statutory agent; and (5) the City of Benwood Mayor's Office, care of Mayor Edward M. Kuca, Jr.

Plaintiffs assert Claims 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7 of the Complaint against ODOT Defendants. Plaintiffs claim that ODOT Defendants: (1) prevented Plaintiffs from using the Bridge by not replacing the Ohio-side ramp, thereby constituting a taking of property without compensation (Claim1); (2) failed to account to Plaintiffs for the fair market value of salvage materials from the area of the ramp acquired by ODOT (Claim 2); (3) violated the Congressional Act of House Bill 11901 and 33 U.S.C. § 491 by impeding travel over the Bridge without federal permission (Claim 3); and (4) violated the Congressional Act of House Bill 11901 and 33 U.S.C. § 491 by effectively closing the Bridge without federal permission (Claim 4). In addition, Plaintiffs assert that, because ODOT Defendants violated the Congressional Act of House Bill 11901, they should be ordered to pay the removal costs and penalties levied on Plaintiffs by the Coast Guard (Claim 7).

Plaintiffs request various forms of relief in their Complaint with respect to these claims. First, Plaintiffs ask the Court to: (a) order ODOT Defendants to construct a 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 Defendants to construct a ramp, it should also awarded Plaintiffs damages for loss of toll profits from the date the ramp was removed by ODOT to the date ODOT completes the new ramp and reopens the Bridge to vehicular traffic. Third, Plaintiffs contend that should the Court choose not to order ODOT Defendants to construct a new ramp, the Court should alternatively order ODOT Defendants to file appropriation proceedings to determine the amount of damages due to Plaintiffs for the remainder of the Bridge in Plaintiffs' possession at the time ODOT Defendants allegedly "took" the economic use of the remainder of the Bridge when it acquired the Ohio-side ramp. Fourth, Plaintiffs request money damages for the salvage materials of the ramp and for their claim that ODOT Defendants violated their civil rights by impeding traffic over the Bridge without federal approval.

ODOT Defendants collectively filed this Motion to Dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on April 6, 2006. On June 29, 2006 Plaintiffs filed a Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in which Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed ODOT as a defendant and clarified Plaintiffs' ambiguous Complaint by confirming that Plaintiffs bring all claims under § 1983.*fn3*fn4 ...


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