Lawsuit Update
OOIDA’s legal year in review

By Coral Beach
staff editor

There was important action in 2006 in a number of cases that OOIDA has pending in courts across the country. Unless otherwise indicated, all of the cases are in relation to alleged violations of federal truth-in-leasing regs.

In these various cases, OOIDA and truckers contend that carriers violated a variety of aspects of the federal leasing regs, including everything from failing to disclose markups on chargebacks to requiring truckers to buy goods or services to failing to return escrow money.

Following is the status of pending cases.

Allied Holdings Inc.: filed May 2003 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia. Allied Holdings filed for bankruptcy in July 2005, which basically put all action in the OOIDA case on hold, including the question of whether the case will be a class action. In February 2006 OOIDA filed documents with the bankruptcy court setting out estimated damages related to tires and alleged skimming. Allied may object to those claims. Ultimately, the claims could be discounted because Allied is in bankruptcy.

Allied Van Lines and TFC Inc.: filed May 2004 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois. The class includes any owner-operators who, after May 5, 2000, were parties to leases with TFC. The court set deadlines Nov. 1 for the close of discovery and summary judgment motions. Rulings are expected on the summary judgment motions in the spring of 2007.

Bridge Terminal Transport Inc.: filed June 2004 in U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. Class certification was granted in January 2006, defining the class as any owner-operators who, between June 2000 and the present, were parties to leases with BTT that contained no compensation terms. The case is basically on hold pending appeal of the class certification by BTT. According to the company’s Web site, BTT’s terminals and owner-operator fleet make it the largest marine container hauler in the United States, covering all major port locations and inland rail sites.

Bulkmatic Transport Co.: filed November 2003 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois. OOIDA has proposed 10 individual truckers to be class representatives and is scheduled to request class certification soon. The trial is set for May 21, 2007. However, action in this case has been held up because of a similar case against Bulkmatic in Ohio. The parties in the Ohio case have reached a proposed $750,000 settlement, which gives each class member $500 a year for every year that they worked for Bulkmatic. OOIDA believes the Ohio settlement is not favorable and asked to intervene to oppose it.

C.R. England Inc.: filed June 2002 and transferred to the U.S. District Court, District of Utah. On Oct. 3, 2006, Judge Ted Stewart issued favorable rulings for the truckers, marking the first time a federal court has ruled that carriers’ leases must disclose markups and fees on chargebacks. The trial ran from Oct. 16-25. OOIDA is seeking disgorgement – the repayment of alleged ill-gotten profits – of several millions from C.R. England. Post-trial briefs are due by the end of January 2007, with a ruling from the judge to follow. The class includes about 6,000 owners or operators who had lease agreements with C.R. England beginning in August 1998 and continuing to the present.

DAC Services (USIS Commercial Services Inc.): filed July 2004 in U.S. District Court, District of Colorado. This case, in part, challenged whether DAC received termination record forms without the permission of the subject drivers, and willfully failed to follow reasonable practices to ensure maximum accuracy in the reports that it sells to motor carriers. Judge Robert E. Blackburn denied class-action status in May 2006. The trial began in late August, but halfway through, Blackburn threw out two of the six trucker plaintiffs and dismissed three of their four counts against DAC. On Sept. 5, the jury found in favor of DAC on the remaining count for all four of the remaining plaintiffs. OOIDA’s legal team is appealing. OOIDA’s opening appeal brief was due Nov. 29. A favorable ruling on the appeal could result in the jury’s verdict being thrown out and could open the door for OOIDA to again pursue class-action status for all drivers who were the subject of a DAC report since July 1999.

FMCSA driver training rule: filed July 2004 with the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. OOIDA asked the court to order FMCSA to go back to the drawing board and draft a new driver training rule. On Dec. 2, 2005, the court did just that, calling the agency’s rule “patently illogical.” This fall, FMCSA Administrator John Hill said the agency had begun reviewing best practices at “reputable” driving schools. There is no timetable for a new rulemaking, but Hill said he expects action after the first of the year.

FMCSA HOS rules: filed January 2006 with the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. OOIDA wants the court to overturn aspects of the hours-of-service rules that pertain to sleeper-berth exemptions and team drivers. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the action Dec. 4, with a ruling to follow sometime thereafter.

FFE Inc.: filed January 2006 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas. In September, OOIDA asked for class certification to include all owner-operators who were leased to FFE from January 2002 to the present. A ruling on the class is expected early in 2007.

Ledar Transport Inc.: filed March 2000 in U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri. Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. ruled in favor of OOIDA and more than 600 truckers on Dec. 30, 2004. He asked OOIDA’s legal team to submit an accounting of each class member’s damages, and that accounting is almost complete. The class includes any trucker leased to Ledar between roughly June 1996 and January 2001.

Lipsey Mountain Spring Water and 4 Points Logistics: filed October 2005 in U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida. On Sept. 6, 2006, Judge William Terrell Hodges dismissed the claims against Lipsey. OOIDA has asked the judge to reconsider that ruling. OOIDA and truckers alleged that field purchase orders between Lipsey and Florida created third-party beneficiary rights for motor carriers during the Hurricane Katrina emergency. The dismissal does not affect claims against 4 Points Logistics for promises it made directly to the motor carriers regarding detention pay.

Mayflower Transit LLC: filed April 1998 in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana. There are two class actions against this carrier. One class includes any owner-operators who live in the U.S. and who had leases with Mayflower and who terminated those leases beginning Feb. 16, 1996, through the present and had state fuel tax credits withheld by Mayflower in an escrow account. The other class includes any owner-operators who live in the U.S. and had leases with Mayflower and who either Mayflower or its agent purchased or obtained insurance coverage and charged back fees for that coverage beginning April 2, 1996, through the present. In June 2006, the court ruled that Mayflower was responsible for the acts or omissions of its agents. No trial date had been set as of press time.

M.S. Carriers Inc.: filed with the American Arbitration Association in December 2004. In June 2006, the arbitrator denied class certification. M.S. Carriers had attempted to assert counterclaims that were not subject to the arbitration. The arbitrator found that since M.S. Carriers’ counterclaims could not be presented in this proceeding, absent class members might prefer to bring their own separate arbitrations and voluntarily submit to M.S. Carriers’ counterclaims so that they could avoid the inconvenience of participating in multiple proceedings. OOIDA is considering its options for challenging the denial of class certification. In the meantime, the arbitration is continuing on behalf of five individual named claimants.

North American Van Lines Inc.: filed March 2005 in U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia. OOIDA asked for class certification in June 2006 to include all owner-operators leased to North American from March 2001 through the present. As of press time, the judge had not ruled on class certification.

New Prime Inc.: filed January 2003 in Circuit Court, Greene County, MO. This case challenges the carrier’s practice of charging owner-operators for workers’ comp insurance. It was dismissed by the original trial court, but OOIDA appealed. The Missouri Court of Appeals agreed that the case should be tried. It is now back before a Missouri Circuit Court. OOIDA requested class certification in January 2006 seeking to include any drivers who leased vehicles from New Prime’s sister company, Success Leasing, and then leased their services and the equipment to New Prime, which then charged them for workers’ comp insurance. The court’s ruling on class certification is expected at any time.

SuperValu Inc.: filed December 2005 in U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota. Please see Page 36 for complete details on this case, which challenges the lumping policies of this nationwide grocery supplier.

Swift Transportation Co. Inc.: filed June 2002 in U.S. District Court, District of Arizona. Judge Paul Rosenblat denied class certification in March 2006 without prejudice, which means OOIDA can seek class-action status at a later point. OOIDA plans to ask for “summary judgment” on the merits of the truckers’ claims by Dec. 1, which basically means the truckers are asking the judge to forego a trial on key aspects and rule in their favor now.

United Van Lines LLC: filed February 2005 in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts. The case was transferred to the Eastern District of Missouri. Judge Jean Hamilton has put the case on two tracks. First, she set a briefing schedule on United’s motion to send the case to arbitration. That briefing is complete. The second track relates to whether the case will be a class action. OOIDA’s motion for class certification is due in January 2007.