OOIDA reviews options in case against Prime after court ruling

| Friday, August 29, 2003

On Aug. 21, 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that owner-operators who signed leases prior to Jan. 1, 1996, could not prosecute their claims under the federal truth-in-leasing regulations against New Prime Inc. in federal court without imposing impermissible retroactive effects.

"This decision is in no way a vindication of the conduct of New Prime under federal law," said Jim Johnston, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. "The court merely decided that New Prime could not be compelled to defend its conduct under the leases in question in federal court."

All of the leases that were involved in the litigation were executed prior to Jan. 1, 1996, the effective date of the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act. OOIDA's attorneys are reviewing the Eighth Circuit ruling and will "almost certainly seek further review of this decision," Johnston said. Further review is potentially available before the Eighth Circuit itself and at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Johnston pointed out OOIDA’s class-action case against another motor carrier, Arctic Express, in which U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley (for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division) ruled that duties imposed on a carrier with regard to the obligations under its leases are not new. In his opinion, Judge Marbley said the truth-in-leasing regulations have imposed these obligations on carriers since 1979. Because a motor carrier’s obligations preceded the 1996 legislation, enforcing those obligations under the new procedures that became effective in 1996 does not create impermissible retroactive effects. In that July 2003 ruling, Judge Marbley dismissed Arctic’s argument that the statutes should not be retroactively applied to agreements entered into before the ICCTA effective date.

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