By Sandi Soendker
OOIDA currently has two legal actions against the Minnesota State Patrol. The first one is the case that was just tried in U.S. District Court in St. Paul. The second action – OOIDA calls this case “Minnesota II” – was filed a year ago in November and is currently being appealed.
The Association and member plaintiff Stephen K. House filed the “Minnesota I” lawsuit May 13, 2009, with the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Read details on this case on Page 18 of this issue.
OOIDA’s research pertaining to this original lawsuit revealed an unexpected and astonishing situation: The state had not adopted the federal regulations, and it enacted none of its own.
OOIDA acquired a document from FMCSA through a Freedom of Information request, which revealed that Minnesota had not properly adopted either directly or by reference the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Not having those regs on the state books means the state had no authority to enforce them.
The document also states that FMCSA did not delegate any authority to Minnesota to enforce the federal regs. FMCSA recommended that Minnesota take steps to correctly adopt FMCSA’s regulations and incorporate any amendments to such federal regulations into Minnesota law.
Minnesota finally corrected its law effective Aug. 1, 2009. It is OOIDA’s position that before that date no regulations existed to enforce governing interstate truckers.
That discovery immediately led to OOIDA’s second legal action, filed Nov. 20, 2009, with the Minnesota District Court for the Fourth Judicial District. OOIDA and several member plaintiffs filed against the state of Minnesota, the head of Minnesota Department of Public Safety, and named members of the state patrol.
In that case, OOIDA claims that because the state had not adopted federal regulations and enacted no regulations of its own, it had no authority to issue citations to drivers and must return fines and reverse the damage to drivers’ records. The second lawsuit was dismissed by the trial court. On Aug. 2, 2010, OOIDA filed an appeal.
“We filed the appeal to the higher state court because we felt the case was wrongly decided by the district court,” said OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston. “We felt perhaps that court did not have a good grasp of what the issues involve.”
Johnston said while there are certainly some related issues in this case to the fatigue practices case currently awaiting decision by the federal court (i.e., if it is found that the state patrol did not have the authority to enforce any of the regulations, they certainly could not have enforced the fatigue regulation), both are currently on separate tracks based on the merits of each case. LL