U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rules against Detroit International Bridge Co. on the legal question of whether the company is a “federal instrumentality”

Appeals court rules against bridge company on private vs. public issue

By John Gallagher
Free Press Business Writer

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled against the Detroit International Bridge Co. on the legal question of whether the company is a “federal instrumentality”, as it has claimed from time to time.

The ruling stemmed an earlier Michigan Supreme Court ruling that held DIBC exempt from City of Detroit regulations because the company was a federal instrumentality. The U.S. government sued to reverse that finding, saying the company was a private company with nothing to do with the U.S. government.

A federal district court ruled in the government’s favor, and the federal appeals court upheld that in a 17-page ruling issued today.

There was no immediate comment from the bridge company, which is owned by billionaire businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun and his family.

The company’s claim to limited federal status was based in part on a 1920s-era authorization by the U.S. Congress to the DIBC’s predecessor company to build the Ambassador Bridge.

But in its ruling today, the Sixth Circuit wrote that the bridge company “bears none of the hallmarks of a federal instrumentality.”

The court wrote that the company is a private, for-profit corporation created by private individuals, not the U.S. government, and the government does not control the company’s day-to-day operations or appoint any members of its board of directors.