March 13, 2002, Grain Valley, MO - The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has filed a petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals (Eighth District) to review an earlier district court ruling in February denying class certification in its case against New Prime, Inc.
On Feb. 25, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri ruled against OOIDA's request for class certification to combine all of the owner-operators affected by Prime's alleged truth-in-leasing violations into one lawsuit. The court had denied the class certification despite broad agreement with OOIDA on virtually all prerequisites needed to obtain certification of a class. The suit alleges violations by Prime of the federal truth-in-leasing regulations and the proposed class could consist of as many as 10,000 owner-operators throughout the United States.
In submitting its petition for review, attorneys for OOIDA pointed out that OOIDA had demonstrated all the necessary elements needed to certify the class on behalf of the large number of owner-operators who had claims against Prime.
U.S. District Court Judge Dean Whipple had 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 believe this court's stated grounds run contrary to precedents already established in this circuit and other circuits. In other similar cases that OOIDA has brought against carriers the courts have agreed that class certification is the most efficient mechanism for enforcing the leasing regulations on behalf of large numbers of owner-operators with relatively small claims." Johnston added, "We believe an error of law has been made in this court in basing its decision on the issue of offsets which has not been tested legally or been proven as fact. We are confident that a class of owner-operators will ultimately be certified in this case."