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Lawsuit Update
Latest decision in OOIDA v. Comerica Bank prolongs longstanding case

By Sandi Soendker, editor-in-chief

For OOIDA, a truth-in-leasing case that started out against Arctic Express and now involves Comerica Bank has been without question its longest active case. And it’s not over yet.

In 1997, OOIDA and member plaintiffs filed a suit against Arctic Express for violating the escrow provisions of the truth-in-leasing regulations. The suit was resolved in OOIDA’s favor in 2004 when the court held that Arctic had violated the leasing regulations and ordered the return of the escrows in the amount of $5.5 million. Unfortunately, Arctic declared bankruptcy and was unable to pay most of the settlement. 

During the bankruptcy proceedings OOIDA learned of Arctic’s financial arrangement with Comerica Bank and the receipt of the maintenance escrow funds that the bank was using to pay down Arctic’s debts to it. OOIDA then sued Comerica on the theory that escrow funds were subject to a statutory trust created under the leasing regulations and that Comerica, as the recipient of trust property, was responsible to the drivers for the escrow funds. OOIDA sought the return of all of the escrow funds from Comerica.

In March 2011, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed completely with OOIDA on all of the case’s legal issues: that escrow funds were subject to a statutory trust; that those funds were improperly received by Comerica to pay down Arctic’s debt; and that, unless barred by the statute of limitations, Comerica was required to return the escrow funds to drivers.

The appeals court remanded the case to the federal court in Columbus, Ohio, to resolve factual questions on the statute of limitations issue. After a trial on Comerica’s statute of limitations defense, the federal court reviewed the facts and in March 2012 ruled in favor of OOIDA, the named plaintiffs and the certified class. 

The court awarded the class restitution of more than $5.5 million. However, Comerica appealed the decision.

On April 2, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth District ruled on the appeal, upholding all of OOIDA’s arguments except one. The appeals court ruled that the district court must “afford Comerica the opportunity to challenge the calculations in determining Comerica’s liability.”

The truckers are represented by The Cullen Law Firm, the Association’s litigation counsel. LL