OOIDA: Class certification granted in lawsuit against Bridge Transport

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The Owner-Operator Independent Driver’s Association says a federal judge in New Jersey has approved class certification status to a lawsuit filed by OOIDA and seven drivers against one of the largest transportation companies in the world. OOIDA filed the case in June 2004 against Bridge Terminal Transport Inc. along with seven of its owner-operator members as co-plaintiffs. On Jan. 31, Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled from the bench that OOIDA had satisfied all of the conditions for the case to be certified as a class action, according to an OOIDA press statement.

In its complaint, OOIDA alleges that BTT violated federal truth-in-leasing regulations by failing to disclose or properly document compensation provisions in its lease agreements. In addition, OOIDA has accused BTT of unlawfully charging truckers for fuel and fuel-related transaction fees, and illegally charging truckers for insurance-related administration fees. A pretrial conference in the BTT case is scheduled for April 21, at which time OOIDA expects a trial date to be set. Attorneys representing OOIDA anticipate that the case might go to trial as early as this summer.

OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston says that Judge Cavanaugh’s swift ruling in its favor from the bench, while unexpected, was a welcome contrast to the waiting the association commonly experiences for rulings in its legal actions against motor carriers. “I think it shows OOIDA and its legal team have established an impressive list of case precedents in the courts where the appropriateness of class certification is involved,” Johnston says. “We look forward to the day when many more of these pretrial issues can be dealt with just as swiftly so that we can proceed to the merits of our complaints.”

BTT, owned by the A.P. Moller-Maersk Group of Denmark, is based in Charlotte, N.C. and is one of the largest marine container haulers in the United States, with 37 terminals in the United States and Canada. The class could include as many as 6,000 current and former drivers who have been parties to lease agreements with BTT since June 2000. The BTT case joins a growing list of cases alleging violations of the federal truth-in-leasing regulations in which class certification has been granted. Recently, cases brought by OOIDA against carriers such as C.R. England and Landstar also have been approved for class treatment.