OOIDA's lawsuit against a Michigan packing house took a leap forward in mid-January when the court ordered Michigan Repacking & Produce Co. to furnish OOIDA attorneys with information critical to the trucking group's lumping complaint. The court's order allows OOIDA to move forward with the discovery phase of the case.
OOIDA and co-plaintiff, owner-operator Doug Bailey of Ravenna, OH, filed the civil lawsuit in April 1998. It charges the defendant, Michigan Repacking & Produce with violating federal law (49 USC Section 14103) by coercing drivers into paying gate fees and lumping charges in order to get their trucks unloaded. The case had reached an impasse over the exchange of specific documents during the discovery stage of the lawsuit. Michigan Repacking and Produce requested an order from the court requiring OOIDA to give over certain information; OOIDA moved the court to grant it a protective order that would allow it to refuse Michigan Repacking & Produce's attorneys a look at that information. OOIDA also requested that the court compel Michigan Repacking & Produce to give OOIDA certain critical documents, and Michigan Repacking & Produce asked the court for a protective order blocking disclosure of that information.
At a Jan. 21 hearing, Magistrate Judge Marc L. Goldman granted OOIDA's requests and ordered Michigan Repacking & Produce to provide OOIDA's attorneys with documents for one year identifying all drivers making deliveries to the defendant, the terms and conditions for payment to drivers for those deliveries, including gate and unloading fees. Michigan Repacking and Produce was also ordered to provide any documents reflecting agreements with brokers or other representatives concerning gate and unloading fees.
"The significance of this case goes far beyond the specific charges imposed by Michigan Repacking & Produce for gate fees and unloading," said OOIDA President Jim Johnston. "It is an important first step in challenging through the courts the very substantial nationwide problem of loading and unloading practices that deprive the trucking industry and professional truckers, in particular, of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in lost income. We are very pleased with Judge Goldman's decisive action to end the delays and move this case forward."