OOIDA appeals recent rulings in case against Prime

| 8/28/2002

August 28, 2002, Grain Valley, MO - The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has appealed several recent decisions by a U.S. District Court in its case against New Prime Inc. for alleged violations of the truth-in-leasing regulations.

On Aug. 6, U.S. District Court Judge Dean Whipple, for the Western District of Missouri, dismissed the claims of two plaintiffs, OOIDA members Marshall Johnson and Jerry Vanboetzelaer, from the case. Judge Whipple ruled that Johnson's and Vanboetzelaer's leases with the Springfield, MO-based motor carrier "pre-dated" the Jan. 1, 1996, statute guaranteeing a trucker's private right of action against a carrier.

On Aug. 20, Judge Whipple then ruled that OOIDA no longer had standing to pursue the case because none of its owner-operator members were participants. The court also ruled that Prime's current lease does not violate the federal regulations. OOIDA believes the court's legal reasoning and factual analysis were faulty on both issues.

Commenting on the court's rulings, OOIDA President Jim Johnston said, "We are disappointed, but not entirely surprised by Judge Whipple's decision, given this court's apparent hostile attitude towards our complaints throughout these proceedings. We believe the court has erred in both its interpretation of the law and its diligence in reviewing the details of Prime's filings in the case."

Johnston added, "The court has ignored the regulations that have been in place since 1979. The court's reasoning in applying the Jan. 1, 1996, date in eliminating the two owner-operators from the case is tantamount to the court absolving carriers for years of illegal activity in their dealings with owner-operators. We are confident that these issues, as well as our appeal on the class certification of the case, will be properly addressed by the appeals court."

On Feb. 25, the U.S. District Court had ruled against OOIDA's request for class certification to combine the potential 10,000 owner-operators affected by Prime's alleged violations into one lawsuit. The U.S. Court of Appeals declined to exercise its discretion to hear OOIDA's appeal on the class certification until after the other issues in the case had been addressed by the lower district court.

OOIDA's current appeal, which will be heard by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis, seeks reversal of the recent rulings as well as the trial court's denial of class certification. This is the second appeal OOIDA has taken in this case. In 1999, the Eighth Circuit reversed the same district court's decision after the trial court ruled that OOIDA and owner-operators did not have a private right of action to seek injunctive relief for violations of the truth-in-leasing regulations. The appellate court's ruling that the ICC Termination Act authorizes a trucker's private action against a carrier has since been upheld by numerous other courts where OOIDA has filed lawsuits against motor carriers.