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8/29/2001
Mayflower asks court to dismiss OOIDA complaints; U.S. District Judge says no

August 28, Grain Valley, MO - The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association announces what it considers to be a substantial victory in U.S. District Court in its lawsuit against Mayflower Transit Inc.

On Aug. 27, U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker (for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division) denied all motions brought by Mayflower Transit, Inc. to dismiss two cases filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and three of its owner-operator members.

The two lawsuits were filed against Mayflower Transit Inc., of Fenton, MO, in 1998 by OOIDA with members Woody Chambers of Woodchuck Leasing Inc, Mark Dudgeon, and John Neidig. The first suit claims violations of the federal truth-in-leasing regulations by the carrier's failure to return fuel-tax credits on a current basis and to return fuel- tax credits and other funds held in escrow accounts to owner-operators within the required time period after their lease agreements had expired. The second suit alleges that Mayflower unlawfully over-charged the owner-operators for insurance products that they purchased through Mayflower, which is also a violation of federal truth-in-leasing regulations.

In its request to dismiss the actions, Mayflower had argued that the plaintiffs have no private right of action under the leasing regulations; that the cases should be deferred to the DOT, and state claims should not be retained after the federal causes of action are dismissed; and that it is not liable because it is not a signatory to any lease agreements between its agents and the individual plaintiffs.

Judge Barker rejected all three arguments, pointing out in her ruling that the ICC Termination Act explicitly provided for private enforcement of the leasing regulations in court. She also denied DOT's primary jurisdiction over the case since one of the original purposes of the ICC Termination Act was to reduce the DOT's dispute resolution function.

Because she refused to dismiss the federal claims, she also retained jurisdiction over the state claims. Finally, Judge Barker went on to reject Mayflower's claim that it had no liability for contracts entered into by its authorized agents.

"We are very pleased with Judge Barker's ruling on these issues," said Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA. "Once again, and despite costly and complicated efforts by motor carriers, the courts have recognized that owner-operators have a private right of action against motor carriers under the federal truth-in-leasing regulations. This continues to be our most important instrument in obtaining relief against business practices that are in direct violation of the federal truth-in-leasing regulations."

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