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8/5/2004
SPECIAL REPORT: Court resolves issues in OOIDA’s favor in lawsuit against Swift

A U.S. District Court has issued an order resolving a number of outstanding motions in favor of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in its class action suit against Swift Transportation Inc., paving the way for the case to proceed.

OOIDA and 10 of its owner-operator members filed the class action complaint in July 2002 against Swift Transportation Co. Inc. (AZ), Swift Transportation Co. Inc. (NV), M.S. Carriers Inc. and M.S. Carriers Warehousing Distribution Inc. OOIDA contends that the leases of Swift and M.S. Carriers violated the federal truth-in-leasing regulations.

The association also contends the carriers failed to provide owner-operators with required documentation for chargebacks against compensation; forced purchase of insurance and other products and services; made illegal deductions from escrow accounts; and failed to return escrow accounts within the required time after termination.

Subsequent to the filing, the claims against M.S. Carriers were referred to arbitration by the court. The court then granted a request by OOIDA to add Interstate Equipment Leasing Inc. - the truck leasing company that is wholly owned by Swift President and CEO Jerry Moyes and his wife - as defendants in the class action.

Most recently, on July 28, Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona ruled that the truth-in-leasing claims brought by OOIDA on behalf of owner-operators are governed by the four-year federal statute of limitations, as opposed to a two-year statute of limitations urged by Swift. The court's ruling means the plaintiffs have the potential of recovering damages dating back four years instead of just two years as well as extending the potential class to all owner-operators whose claims fall within that time frame.

Judge Rosenblatt also granted OOIDA's motion to dismiss counterclaims asserted by MS Warehousing against a number of the named plaintiffs, as well as a motion to dismiss the named plaintiff's claims against MS Warehousing. OOIDA welcomed this because the motion will allow the named plaintiffs to pursue their complaint against Swift without being exposed to counterclaims by the motor carrier.

The judge also denied a motion by Interstate to dismiss its status as a defendant in the case, agreeing with OOIDA's argument that the affiliation between Interstate and Swift was close enough to allow him to exercise jurisdiction over Interstate. OOIDA alleges that Interstate violated the truth-in-leasing regulations and breached its fiduciary and trust duties arising from the regulations.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston expressed satisfaction with the judge's rulings on the issues of the statute of limitations, counterclaims and status of Interstate as a defendant.

"The latest rulings should now help us move the case forward to consideration of our motions for class certification and then to trial," Johnston said. "For months, attorneys for Swift have maintained that the court could not reasonably define or certify a class until these issues were resolved and we believed we have now effectively eliminated all remaining obstacles."

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