The Cullen Law Firm achieved a significant victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed an attorney’s fee award of $350,000 against Swift Transportation, one of the country’s largest interstate motor carriers. This fee arose from a federal district court’s entry of a declaratory judgment that Swift had violated the rights of owner-operator truck drivers under the federal Truth-in-Leasing Regulations, 49 C.F.R. Part 376. These regulations were promulgated to ensure that motor carriers such as Swift make complete disclosures to truck owner-operators under lease to them regarding how their compensation is computed. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc., was a plaintiff in the litigation to support and vindicate its members’ rights.
Swift objected to the attorney fee award on the ground that it had reformed its practices after the litigation was initiated, thus eliminating the dispute. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, holding that because Swift persisted in its claim that its prior practices did not violate the regulations, it was fully liable for attorney’s fees. The court’s attorney fee ruling establishes a very valuable precedent under ICCTA by authorizing a substantial fee award even where a carrier “voluntarily” revises its leases after being sued in an effort to avoid liability, and it ensures that motor carriers who violate the regulations will be held fully accountable.
Ninth Circuit’s Opinion HERE