Judge Eliminates Most Claims in Antitrust Spat Between CSX and NS regarding Norfolk Port

Source:  TLA Admiralty & Maritime Transportation Committee  

On January 3, 2023, a Virginia federal judge awarded summary judgment to Norfolk Southern for most claims in an antitrust case regarding access to the Norfolk port. CSX brought the antitrust suit concerning the Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad (“Beltline”). 

The Beltline was originally owned by eight railroads, but through consolidation of the industry is now owned jointly by Norfolk Southern (57%) and CSX (43%). At issue was access to the Norfolk International Terminal one of two key terminals in the Norfolk Port for international container shipments. NS can access the facility by its own tracks, but CSX must access the terminal by rail through the Beltline’s contractual rights to access NS’s tracks. As the judge described it, the crux of the lawsuit was whether NS and the Beltline “committed monopolistic antitrust violations, or unlawfully colluded with each other in restraint of trade, in a manner that prevented CSX from fairly competing to transport international shipping containers” through Norfolk International Terminal.

In a complicated 104-page opinion, Judge Mark Davis, Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Virginia, found that CSX’s damage claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that no reasonable factfinder could award damages for any of the alleged conduct within the applicable period. Accordingly, the judge dismissed all damage claims but converted the scheduled January 18, 2023, jury trial into a bench trial to consider whether the Court should nevertheless award injunctive relief under applicable state law for the conduct alleged.