U.S. District Court upholds class certification in OOIDA suit against Arctic Express; OOIDA to appeal ruling in case against Prime

| Friday, March 01, 2002

March 1, 2002, Grain Valley, MO -- A U.S. District Court Judge has denied a motion by Arctic Express, Inc. to reverse an earlier court decision granting class certification in the case brought against it by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).

On Feb. 26, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley (for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division) ruled that Arctic Express had presented no new evidence or argument that would justify reversing the class certification he had granted in September, 2001.

In his written order, Judge Marbley stated Arctic's motion was "simply a rehash of old arguments and failed to demonstrate a clear error of law." 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.

At issue is the allegation Arctic failed to return escrow accounts after the termination of the owner-operators' leases. The class is estimated to potentially include as many as 2,000 owner-operators. In another case involving violations of the federal leasing regulations, this one against New Prime Inc., OOIDA is preparing to file an appeal against a ruling denying its motion for class certification in that case.

On Feb. 25, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri ruled against OOIDA's request that a class be certified to combine all of the owner-operators affected by Prime's alleged truth-in-leasing violations into one lawsuit. The court denied the class certification despite broad agreement with OOIDA on virtually all prerequisites needed to obtain certification of a class.The proposed class would consist of as many as 10,000 owner-operators throughout the United States.The court agreed with OOIDA that the large number of owner-operators who had claims against Prime weighed in favor of class certification.

The court agreed with OOIDA that the lawsuit and "alleged common course of conduct on the part of Prime" was sufficient to certify the class. It agreed with OOIDA that the claims brought in the case were sufficiently typical to warrant the certification of a class action and it also agreed the class certification could not be defeated on the ground Prime had counter-claims against the absent class members.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Dean Whipple denied the motion for class certification on the ground that certifying a class of owner-operators "would entitle the defendants to present individualized proof of offsets, advances and maintenance expenses charged to the owner-operators accounts to determine whether any escrow funds remained to which the owner-operators may be entitled." OOIDA President Jim Johnston said, "We don't believe the court's stated grounds are sufficient to effectively scuttle the right of a whole class to enforce the truth-in-leasing regulations. It's difficult to understand how the court can agree with us on all the criteria needed to meet class certification and yet still withhold granting it." Johnston went on to add, "We believe that this order contains legal error, especially when considering the precedents we have established in other district courts' granting class certification in similar cases.

This is certainly not the last word on this issue and OOIDA will appeal it immediately. We have faith in the court and we have faith in the judicial process, and we believe a class of owner-operators will ultimately be certified in this case."

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