Lawsuit Update
OOIDA files lumping suit against Supervalu

By Coral Beach
staff editor

Seeking an end to what it contends are illegal lumping requirements, OOIDA has filed a lawsuit against the grocery chain Supervalu Inc. in federal court in St. Paul, MN.

The suit, filed Dec. 6, 2005, could involve thousands of truckers.

OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said the lawsuit is a case in point.

"OOIDA has been working on this for a very long time," Johnston said, "and it's not the only case. We knew there were problems out there, but it's hard to get truckers to come forward and go on the record with complaints because they fear retribution."

Simply put, OOIDA wants the federal court to order Supervalu to revise its policies and pay back "improper profit" it made by "shifting costs to somebody that shouldn't have them," said Randy Herrick-Stare, the attorney from The Cullen Law Firm who is handling the case for OOIDA.

"If there are 1,000 deliveries a day and every delivery involves improper lumping fees or improper shifting of lumping fees of $50, $60, $100, it's easy to do the math and you run up into two commas pretty quickly," Herrick-Stare said.

Federal law says receivers must pay for unloading interstate freight if they require truckers to be assisted in the unloading process. According to OOIDA members named in the lawsuit, Supervalu adopted new policies in March 2005 that violate that law.

Truckers Joseph Rajkovacz of Edgar, WI, and Carl Schaefer of Alpha, OH, had both made deliveries to the grocer prior to March 2005 without difficulties.      

Then Supervalu instituted a new policy requiring insurance in excess of federal requirements. Truckers without that insurance are required to accept assistance from - and pay for lumpers.

Rajkovacz lost several hours of time because he was required to wait for lumpers to unload three pallets of cottage cheese. He was required to pay the lumpers out of his own pocket and was not given any detention pay.

Schaefer was delayed from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. when he tried to deliver a full load of pet food to one of the grocer's distribution centers. He was required to accept the assistance of lumpers and required to pay them out of his own pocket.

But he didn't have the $75 cash that the lumping firm was demanding and he had to drive to an automatic teller machine to get the money before they would unload his truck.

OOIDA's attorney said this case is based on the fact that Supervalu has system-wide problems.

"One of the reasons that this particular piece of litigation is about to be commenced against this particular retailer is that (Supervalu) was a subject of litigation under this statute in 1998 and the federal appellate court at that time basically told this retailer that ... they couldn't be leaning on truck drivers and we think that their policy that they adopted back in March has done exactly that," Herrick-Stare said.