By Coral Beach
Neither OOIDA’s leadership nor its legal team were deterred when a jury ruled in favor of DAC Services in a trial that pitted individual drivers against a big business middleman that profits from buying and selling reports on truckers.
In fact, exactly one week after the verdict, the OOIDA Board of Directors authorized the legal team to appeal in the 10th Circuit of the U.S. District Court in Denver. The ruling of the jury likely will not be appealed. Rather, decisions by the federal judge presiding over the case will probably be the subject of the appeal. However, details had not been decided at press time.
“The DAC system as it exists today is a hammer over the head of every professional trucker in the country,” said OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston.
“It’s a system that we’ve no intention of allowing to continue. We are filing an appeal of the court’s decisions in this case, and if that fails we will certainly file another separate lawsuit. We have every intention of fighting this system until it is corrected.”
Lead attorney for the truckers, Randall S. Herrick-Stare, and attorneys Paul Cullen Sr. and Paul Cullen Jr., all spoke about the case to the OOIDA directors at the board’s fall meeting in September. The attorneys said they are confident there is a good chance the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will say the lower court erred.
The appeal was authorized on behalf of the individual truckers because of the potential benefit a favorable appellate court ruling could have for the hundreds of thousands of truckers in DAC’s database.
The legal team’s confidence about the appeal came on the heels of a hard-fought battle that began when the case was filed by OOIDA in 2004 with the intention of it being a class action. The Association wanted it to include every driver who has been the subject of a DAC report since July 7, 1999. Federal Judge Robert E. Blackburn denied class-action status earlier this year.
The trial got under way with six truckers as plaintiffs.
Halfway through the trial – just after the truckers rested their case – the judge delivered another blow.
Blackburn issued rulings that kicked out the claims of two of the six trucker plaintiffs and tossed out three of the four legal challenges the other four truckers had against DAC, which does business under the umbrella of USIS Commercial Services Inc.
Still, the truckers’ attorneys fought on.
They had set up their mobile “war room” in Denver in a rented conference room that had a plaque over the door proclaiming it “The Molly Brown Room.” The spirit of that social activist and Titanic survivor seemed to bolster the attorneys as the judge whittled away at the case, leaving little for the jury to decide.
In describing it to the OOIDA board, the attorneys said the case initially included two main points:
- The procedures and practices DAC used to acquire reports on truckers; and
- The accuracy of those reports.
When the judge threw out all of the truckers’ claims except the one regarding accuracy, he stripped the jury of the ability to consider or rule on much of the evidence presented.
Cullen and Herrick-Stare said that, based on existing case law in federal appellate courts, they believe the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will find that Blackburn took a too narrow view of the Fair Credit Reporting Act in his rulings.
If the appellate court agrees, the case will be sent back to Blackburn’s court. Depending upon various details of the case after appeal, a new jury may be selected to hear the truckers’ claims that DAC violated federal law by not properly notifying truckers and by not obtaining written permission from drivers before receiving information about them into its database.
“The events in Denver should not be viewed as a defeat. Victory has just been delayed,” said the senior Cullen.
“Defeat occurs when someone is unwilling or unable to continue the fight. OOIDA is both willing and able. The fight is not over.”
If the appeal is successful and a future jury rules against DAC’s procedures and practices, Herrick-Stare said it would literally put every trucker on the road in the driver’s seat when it comes to who can submit a DAC report on them. The truckers will also be empowered to ensure that the information on those reports is accurate.