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State ex rel Kline v. Transmasters Towing

October 5, 2007

STATE OF KANSAS EX REL. PHILL KLINE, ATTORNEY GENERAL, APPELLANT,
v.
TRANSMASTERS TOWING AND KEVIN RAASCH, APPELLEES.



Appeal from Douglas District Court; PAULA B. MARTIN, judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. The interpretation of a statute is a question of law over which this court has unlimited review.

2. Whether a state law is preempted by a federal law is a question of law over which this court has unlimited review.

3. Under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, article VI, clause 2, a state law which conflicts with a federal law is unenforceable.

4. The express preemption clause of the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act, 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1) (2000), prohibiting the enactment or enforcement of a law "related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier" is interpreted and applied to the facts of this case.

5. The exception to the express preemption clause of the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act, 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1), providing, in part, that the express preemption clause does not apply to the authority of a State to enact or enforce a law "relating to the price of for-hire motor vehicle transportation by a tow truck, if such transportation is performed without the prior consent or authorization of the owner or operator of the motor vehicle," 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(2)(C), is interpreted and applied to the facts of this case.

6. The unconscionable acts or practices provisions of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, K.S.A. 50-627, are interpreted and applied to the facts of this case.

7. Under the facts of this case, unconscionable price claims brought under K.S.A. 50-627(b) are not preempted by the express preemption clause of 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1) prohibiting the enactment or enforcement of a law "related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier" because these claims are included within the preemption exception allowing the enactment or enforcement of a law "relating to the price of for-hire motor vehicle transportation by a tow truck, if such transportation is performed without the prior consent or authorization of the owner or operator of the motor vehicle" under 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(2)(C).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buser, J.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Before MALONE, P.J., BUSER and LEBEN, JJ.

The State of Kansas ex rel. Phill Kline (now Paul J. Morrison), Attorney General (State), appeals the dismissal of its claims under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act (KCPA), K.S.A. 50-623 et seq., against Transmasters Towing and its owner Kevin Raasch (Transmasters). The district court held the KCPA claims were preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1) (2000). We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Factual and Procedural Background

In 2005, the State alleged that Transmasters committed multiple violations of the KCPA against 10 individual consumers. The State pled generally that Transmasters frequently obtained towing jobs under a "random assignment of government and Kansas turnpike authorities, by use of a rotation schedule" and that Transmasters had "towed vehicles in the State of Kansas without first obtaining the permission of those towed." The State then pled as to each individual consumer the circumstances requiring the ...


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