Court rules against O/Os

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GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. — OOIDA is considering its options after a court ruled O/Os who signed leases before Jan. 1, 1996 can’t prosecute their claims against New Prime under truth-in-leasing regs.

The reason given by the U.S. Court of Appeals, according to the OOIDA, was that prosecution in federal court would impose impermissible retroactive effects on the company.

“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 (OOIDA). “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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