Columbus v. Ours Garage & Wrecker Service, Inc., 536 U.S. 424, 8 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 424 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

and two city officials to enjoin enforcement of the City's tow-truck regulations. The complaint alleged that Columbus' regulations were preempted by 14501(c)(1). On cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Court ruled for the plaintiffs; the court declared the City's tow-truck regulations preempted and enjoined their enforcement. Columbus and its officials appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

During the pendency of Columbus' appeal, the Sixth Circuit decided Petrey v. Toledo, 246 F. 3d 548 (2001). Petrey held that city of Toledo tow-truck regulations, resembling those of Columbus, were preempted by 14501(c).1 The court observed first that 14501(c)(1)'s preemption rule explicitly applies to "a State [or] political subdivision of a State," while the exception for safety regulations, 14501(c)(2)(A), refers only to the "authority of a State." The contrast in statutory language indicated to the court that Congress meant to limit the safety exception to States alone. Id., at 563. This reading, the court further reasoned, was consistent with Congress' deregulatory purpose. "Congress intended to encourage market forces . . . through the elimination of a myriad of complicated and potentially conflicting state regulations," the court observed; "yet another level of regulation at the local level," the court inferred, "would be disfavored." Ibid.

Eleven weeks after rendering its judgment in Petrey, the Sixth Circuit decided this case. Holding Petrey dispositive, the appeals court affirmed the District Court's injunction against enforcement of Columbus' tow-truck regulations. 257 F. 3d 506, 507-508 (2001).

The Courts of Appeals have divided on the question whether 14501(c)(2)(A)'s safety regulation exception to pre-1 The court excepted regulations governing the city's own purchase of towing services, which it held fell within the "municipal proprietor" exception applicable to federal preemption rules. See Petrey, 246 F. 3d, at 558-559.

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