Jan. 11, 2002, Grain Valley, MO - The U.S. Bankruptcy Court has ruled in favor of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association on motions in its class action suit filed against Intrenet Inc., four subsidiary companies of Intrenet and Huntington National Bank.
Intrenet Inc. ceased operation on January 2, 2001, and more than 1,000 owner-operators leased to Roadrunner Distribution, Roadrunner Trucking, Advanced Distribution System, and Eck Miller Transportation were terminated as of that date. None have had their escrow accounts returned by the companies.
Huntington National Bank served Intrenet and its four motor carrier subsidiaries prior to the bankruptcy.
The OOIDA lawsuit was filed as a class action, on behalf of all owner-operators under lease to any of the four motor carriers. In its complaint, OOIDA had sought to separate from the bankruptcy estate, the escrow funds held by the defendants at the time of the bankruptcy. The suit also requested the return of all escrow funds to individual owner-operators, prior to the payment of the amounts due to creditors.
Intrenet's attorneys argued that because the escrow funds were not segregated or handled by a third party, they weren't really a "true" escrow per Ohio state law.
In his ruling, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge J. Vincent Aug Jr. (for the Southern District, Western Division) ruled that escrow funds are subject to a statutory trust created by the federal regulations regardless of who holds the funds. He dismissed the carriers' and Huntington's argument that trust funds must be held by a third party, citing the federal regulation's definition of escrow funds as "money deposited by the lessor with either a third party or the lessee..."
Judge Aug went on to declare these statutory trusts could not be included in Intrenet's bankruptcy estate.
"We are very pleased the court has recognized that escrow funds are created and regulated by the federal truth-in-leasing regulations," said OOIDA President Jim Johnston. "This ruling spells out clearly the rights of owner-operators to those funds held in trust, especially when carriers go into bankruptcy either through circumstance or as a strategy to hide from legal actions against them."
Johnston went on to add, "I am particularly gratified that some earlier rulings and precedents we have obtained in court cases against other carriers have been cited in this court's written judgment as established interpretations of the leasing regulations."
Founded in 1973, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), is comprised of more than 72,500 owner-operators, professional drivers, and small business truckers from all 50 states and Canada. OOIDA represents the interest of this nation's more than 350,000 small business trucking professionals in the legislative and regulatory processes at both federal and state levels.