A French court has overturned a ruling that ordered the state railway to compensate the family of World War II Jewish deportees.
The Wall of Names in Paris, showing the French deportees
Appeal judges in Bordeaux ruled administrative courts could not decide the liability of the operator SNCF.
Last June a court ruled SNCF must pay 61,000 euros ($81,300; £41,400) to the Lipietz family, whose members were taken to a camp near Paris in 1944.
SNCF had received 1,800 compensation requests since June's ruling.
The Lipietz case was brought by family members, including Alain, a member of the European parliament.
Georges Lipietz, his father, was taken at the age of 21 to the Drancy camp but was spared transportation to death camps by the Allied victory. Three other family members were similarly transported to Drancy, the lawsuit says.
The case was launched in 2001 and has continued despite Georges Lipietz's subsequent death.
It was taken to the administrative courts, which rule on lawsuits brought against the state.
But Tuesday's ruling said SNCF was an entity in its own right and should be covered by the traditional judicial system.
A lawyer for some of the plaintiffs against SNCF, Gerard Boulanger, said: "It's a way for the administrative justice system to kick the issue into touch."
SNCF has not yet commented.
It earlier argued it had no choice but to do as it was ordered by the Vichy government in collaboration with the German occupying army. Those who refused faced being shot, it said.
Records show SNCF billed the French state for third-class journeys, even though families were transported in cattle wagons.
The Lipietz family said it would now go to the highest administrative court, the State Council.
Other plaintiffs will have to go to criminal or civil courts, legal experts say.
However, a similar case in 2003 against SNCF in a civil court was thrown out as the 30-year statute of limitations had expired.
Between 1942 and 1944 some 76,000 Jews were deported from France.