Nov. 14, 2001, Grain
Valley, MO -- A District Court judge in Indiana has agreed with the Owner-Operator
Independent Drivers Association's request that two OOIDA lawsuits against
a Missouri household goods carrier be certified as class action lawsuits.
On Nov. 5, U.S. District
Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker concluded that OOIDA and the owner-operator
plaintiffs had met all the prerequisites needed for class certification in
both suits against Mayflower Transit Inc. of Fenton, MO. The lawsuits were
filed 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 overcharged the owner-operators for insurance products
they purchased through Mayflower, which is also a violation of federal truth-in-leasing
Each suit is estimated
to have a potential class of 1,000 members. In her written judgment, Judge
Barker found that "a class action was the superior method of adjudication
in the matters in question as a lawsuit by each individual plaintiff would
be impracticable since the amount of money at issue was usually less than
the amount it would cost for each to prosecute a case."
In making her ruling
Judge Barker also dismissed Mayflower's challenge of OOIDA's participation
in the class action stating, "As the owner-operators' association which
has undertaken both legal and legislative efforts for the owner-operators,
OOIDA has a powerful interest in defending the owner-operators' contract rights.
It has proven itself to be an adequate representative in the past."
OOIDA President Jim Johnston
said after the ruling "We are very pleased with Judge Barker's decision.
The court has again supported OOIDA's long-held position that the rights and
interests of large numbers of small business truckers can be more effectively
served when they act together against injustices in the marketplace."
Johnston added, "Too
many owner-operators decline to pursue justified complaints against carriers
because of a lack of resources or the relatively small amounts involved. We
hope rulings such as this and recent class certifications that we have achieved
in other cases will encourage them to document those alleged abuses and join
with OOIDA to seek relief against unscrupulous carriers."