SPECIAL REPORT: Court upholds four-year statute of limitations on OOIDA claims against Ledar Transport; strikes down carrier counterclaims

| 1/13/2004

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association recently won several major points in its class-action lawsuit against Ledar Transport Inc. and equipment leasing co-defendant Hawthorne Leasing Inc. for violations of federal truth-in-leasing regulations.

On Jan. 7, 2004, U.S. District Court Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. (for the Western District of Missouri) ruled against Ledar’s motions for summary judgment in the case. At the same time, Judge Gaitan dismissed all counterclaims of Ledar and Hawthorne Leasing asserted against class members and class representatives.

Moreover, in a further decision by the court, Judge Gaitan upheld OOIDA’s arguments that the statute of limitations period for claims against the Kansas City, MO, carrier should be the default four-year period established by Congress in 28 U.S.C. § 1658 for all federal causes, and not the two-year period sought by Ledar. In making his decision, Judge Gaitan cited and agreed with the findings of another court in an OOIDA lawsuit against Heartland Express Inc. in which the four-year period was upheld.

A trial on liability issues is now expected for early February 2004. OOIDA filed the class-action lawsuit against Ledar in March 2000 for alleged violations of federal regulations, including unauthorized, undocumented and excessive chargebacks, and the failure to return escrow funds. In November 2000, the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, MO, entered a preliminary injunction prohibiting Ledar from moving interstate freight with equipment it did not own as its lease did not comply with the truth-in-leasing regulations.

This is the second court action initiated by OOIDA against Ledar Transport. An earlier lawsuit filed in 1996 was certified as a class action but a freeze was placed on the class membership. The court entered a default judgment against the carrier in that case, holding the carrier liable for, among other things, failure to return escrow accounts and pay interest on escrow accounts. The case was granted class certification, and the court awarded damages and attorneys’ fees to the plaintiff owner-operators.