May 14, 2009 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paul D. Cullen, Sr., The Cullen Law Firm PLLC, email@example.com or (202) 944-8600
TRUCKERS FILE CIVIL RIGHTS ACTION AGAINST MINNESOTA TROOPERS
May 14, 2009, Washington, D.C. – The Minnesota State Patrol violates the constitutional rights of truck drivers when it places them out-of-service for alleged fatigue, according to a law suit filed in Minneapolis federal court on behalf of a group of interstate truck drivers. The suit seeks to enjoin officers in the Minnesota State Patrol from placing drivers out-of-service and to obtain damages for past actions against drivers.
The complaint alleges that State Troopers have been directed to inquire into a variety of subjects in making their fatigue evaluations, including driver neck size, body odor, dental problems, clothing and the tidiness of the truck’s cab. “These factors are not reliable, scientifically tested indicators of fatigue” observed Paul D. Cullen, Sr., counsel to the plaintiffs, and “form the basis of arbitrary decisions to put drivers out-of-service without a hearing and without procedures designed to define the authority of the trooper and to protect the privacy interest of the driver.”
The complaint was lodged against senior officers in the Minnesota State Patrol including Colonel Mark Dunaski and Captain Ken Urquhart as well as against individual troopers who have issued actual out-of-service orders in the field. Captain Urquhart is Commander of the Commercial Vehicle Section and, according to Mr. Cullen, has been “an outspoken promoter of this misguided campaign against imagined fatigue.”
“The federal government has elected to address the problem of fatigued drivers by limiting their hours of service” said Cullen. In 2000, the federal government rejected the idea of regulating fatigue directly because of the difficulty of measuring actual fatigue, according to Cullen. “The Minnesota State Patrol’s attempt to identify fatigue in individual drivers involves pseudo-science and guesswork that will not stand up in the courts. Driver fatigue should be addressed through reliable, scientific standards applied consistent with constitutional safeguards,” according to Cullen.
Plaintiff, Owner Operator Independent Drivers Ass’n, Inc. (“OOIDA”), is a national trade association representing the interests of small business truckers. Formed in 1973, OOIDA represents almost 160,000 members. OOIDA’s lawsuit was filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and raises four separate grounds for preventing the Minnesota State Patrol from issuing out-of-service orders in the future: 1) Minnesota law authorizes out-of-service orders only for hours of service violations, not for alleged fatigue; 2) drivers have been denied their right to a hearing either before or after the out-of-service orders are issued; 3) the regulation addressing fatigue is unconstitutionally vague and fails to inform drivers of standards under which their alertness/fatigue will be judged; and 4) the conduct of individual state troopers acting without a warrant constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure because Minnesota law contains no regulatory provisions that serve as a constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant.
42 U.S.C. § 1983 authorizes suits for declaratory and injunctive relief and damages against persons acting under color of state law who deprive citizens of their rights under the U.S. Constitution or federal statutes. Originally enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Section 1983 has been used frequently to address unlawful conduct by state officials where a state’s sovereign immunity from suit place the state itself beyond the effective reach of federal or state courts.
For further information, contact Paul D. Cullen, Sr. at firstname.lastname@example.org. The complaint in Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc., et al. v. Mark Dunaski, et al., U.S.D.C. D.Minn. Civil No. 0:9-cv-1116, may be found at www.cullenlaw.com.
The Cullen Law Firm is a litigation and appellate law firm based in Washington, D.C. focused on federal regulatory matters, international trade, transportation, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumer protection, federal contracting fraud and whistle blower law.