Court allows insurance chargebacks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has handed down a ruling that allows both sides in litigation between United Van Lines and independent contractors supported by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to claim a partial victory.

The appeals court recently upheld a lower court ruling that the leasing rules do not preclude motor carriers from charging back part of the cost of the carrier’s public liability insurance to the independent contractors. The legislation requiring registered carriers to post a bond or carry such insurance does not specify which party is required to bear the cost, and the regulations implementing the legislation do not prohibit the defendant from charging the owner-operator, the court ruled.

The independent contractors suing United Van Lines did win one significant point, however. The appeals court ruled that damage actions under 49 U.S.C. Sec. 14704(a)(2) are subject to the four-year statute of limitations that apply to civil actions arising under federal statute. The district court erred in concluding that individual owner-operators’ claims alleging violation of the federal truth-in-leasing regulations were barred by a two-year statute of limitations found in 49 U.S.C. Sec. 14705(C).