Sept. 11, 2001, Grain Valley, MO -- A U.S. District Court Judge has granted a Motion for Certification of Class filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) in its lawsuit against Arctic Express Inc. opening the way to potentially include as many as 2,000 owner-operators in the lawsuit.
OOIDA, with members Carl Harp, Garvin Keith Roberts and Michael Wiese, filed suit against Arctic Express Inc. of Hilliard, OH and its affiliate truck leasing company, D & A Associates LTD, claiming violations of the federal truth-in-leasing regulations for their failure to return escrow accounts after the termination of the owner-operators' leases. On Aug 29, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley (for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division) had issued a written summary judgment in OOIDA's favor finding that Arctic Express had violated the federal leasing regulations and "absconded" with the escrow accounts of the owner-operators.
In ruling on their motion for class certification of the case, Judge Marbley concluded that OOIDA and the owner-operators had sufficiently established that their claim met all the prerequisites needed for class certification. During the hearing both sides in the case had agreed that a future class could be comprised of about 2,000 owner-operators with claims of financial injury from Arctic'[s failure to return escrow accounts after the termination of their leases.
Commenting specifically on the question of OOIDA being named as a participant in the class, Judge Marbley stated, "The Court concludes that this suit is an embodiment of the purpose behind the formation of OOIDA. OOIDA has established standing to bring suit on behalf of the owner-operators who signed agreements with Arctic and D & A." Judge Marbley went on to write in his ruling that although OOIDA is not entitled to monetary relief, there is no question in the Court's mind that adversarial intensity has been demonstrated by OOIDA."
OOIDA President Jim Johnston hailed the ruling as a victory for all owner-operators and OOIDA in their fight against carriers who are taking advantage of owner-operators through lease agreements that violate federal law. Johnston had personally testified at the class certification hearings on behalf of OOIDA and the other plaintiffs.
"OOIDA has always been about giving the independent small business trucker strength in numbers," said Johnston. "Today, the court has taken a major step in acknowledging the justification of our cause and the power of owner-operators when joining together to exercise their private right of action."
Johnston added, "We intend to use the precedents of this ruling in our vigorous pursuit of other carriers who violate the federal truth-in-leasing regulations."
Contact: Todd Spencer, executive vice-president, OOIDA (816) 229-5791.