57 F.3d 642 (8th Cir. 1995), 94-3079, In re Jones Truck Lines

Docket Nº:94-3079, 94-3397 and 94-3679.
Citation:57 F.3d 642
Party Name:Fed. Carr. Cas. P In re JONES TRUCK LINES, INC., Debtor. JONES TRUCK LINES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. WHITTIER WOOD PRODUCTS COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee, United States of America, Intervenor. JONES TRUCK LINES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. WEST KENTUCKY PLATE GLASS, INC., Defendant-Appellee. UNITED STATES of America, Intervenor, v. JONES TRUCK
Case Date:June 08, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 642

57 F.3d 642 (8th Cir. 1995)

Fed. Carr. Cas. P

In re JONES TRUCK LINES, INC., Debtor.

JONES TRUCK LINES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

WHITTIER WOOD PRODUCTS COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee,

United States of America, Intervenor.

JONES TRUCK LINES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

WEST KENTUCKY PLATE GLASS, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

UNITED STATES of America, Intervenor,

v.

JONES TRUCK LINES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

WHITE MOP WRINGER COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

JONES TRUCK LINES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

PITT PLASTICS, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

Jones Truck Lines, Plaintiff-Appellant,

Wilbur Curtis Company, Inc., Defendant-Appellee,

Jones Truck Lines, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant,

KW Industries, Inc., Defendant-Appellee,

Jones Truck Lines, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant,

Union Metal Corporation, Defendant-Appellee,

Jones Truck Lines, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant

Trussbilt, Inc., Defendant-Appellee,

Jones Truck Lines, Plaintiff-Appellant,

Surrey, Inc., Defendant-Appellee,

Jones Truck Lines, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant,

United Electric Company, Defendant-Appellee,

Jones Truck Lines, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant,

Scotts Liquid Gold, Inc., Defendant,

Jones Truck Lines, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant,

Service Wire Company, Defendant-Appellee,

Jones Truck Lines, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant,

Alan Wire Company, doing business as Regency Wire & Cable

Division, Defendant-Appellee.

JONES TRUCK LINES, INC. Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

SOUTHLAND FURNITURE, INC., Defendant-Appellee,

United States of America, Intervenor.

Nos. 94-3079, 94-3397 and 94-3679.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 8, 1995

Submitted April 14, 1995.

Page 643

Charles Turner Coleman, Little Rock, AR, argued, for appellant.

Don A. Smith, Fort Smith, AR, argued (William J. Augello, George Carl Pezold and Raymond A. Selvaggio, Huntington, NY, on the brief), for appellees Whittier Wood in 94-3079, Alan Wire Co., Service Wire Co., Scotts Liquid Gold, United Electric Co., Surrey, Trussbilt, Union Metal Corp., KW Ind., Wilbur Curtis Co., Pitt Plastics, White Mop Wringer Co., KY Plate Glass in 94-3397, and Southland Furniture in 94-3679.

Theodore K. Kalick of the I.C.C. (Virginia Strasser, with the ICC, Frank W. Hunger, Asst. Atty. Gen., Paul K. Holmes, U.S. Atty., and Anthony Steinmeyer and Peter R. Maier, from the Dept. of Justice, on the brief), for the Intervenor, USA.

Page 644

Before WOLLMAN and MURPHY, Circuit Judges, and EISELE, Senior District Judge. [*]

DIANA E. MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

Jones Truck Lines, Inc. (Jones) appeals from summary judgments entered in favor of a number of shippers. The district court 1 concluded that the Negotiated Rates Act of 1993 (NRA) prevented Jones from recovering undercharges from the shippers. Jones argues that the NRA does not apply to a carrier in bankruptcy and that such an application would be an unconstitutional taking. We affirm.

I.

Jones is a trucking company which transported goods for each of the shippers at a negotiated rate; each shipper apparently paid the charges as billed. After Jones filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 on July 9, 1991, it stopped transporting goods but continued as a debtor in possession. Management reviewed its records and decided to sue the shippers for the difference between the negotiated rate they had paid and the higher filed rate. 2

Until 1980, the trucking industry was highly regulated. Under the filed rate doctrine, carriers were required to file their rates with the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) pursuant to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. Sec. 10101 et seq. Carriers were not to charge a different rate unless it too was filed. See Maislin Industries, U.S. v. Primary Steel, Inc., 497 U.S. 116, 110 S.Ct. 2759, 111 L.Ed.2d 94 (1990).

After Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 (MCA), Pub.L. 96-296, 94 Stat. 793, carriers began negotiating lower rates with shippers with the approval of the ICC, but the negotiated rates were often not filed. When carriers went bankrupt during the 1980s, they then frequently sought to collect the higher filed rates, but the ICC often ruled in favor of shippers' claims that they should not be required to pay the higher rate when they had negotiated a lower one. See, e.g., NITL--Petition to Institute Rulemaking on Negotiated Motor Common Carrier Rates, 3 I.C.C.2d 99, 106 (1986).

In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that the MCA had not repealed the filed rate doctrine and that the ICC had exceeded its authority by ignoring the requirement that the filed rate was the only lawful rate. Maislin Industries, U.S. v. Primary Steel, Inc., 497 U.S. 116, 110 S.Ct. 2759, 111 L.Ed.2d 94 (1990). "If strict adherence to Secs. 10761 and 10762 as embodied in the filed rate doctrine has become an anachronism in the wake of the MCA, it is the responsibility of Congress to modify or eliminate these sections." Id. at 135-36, 110 S.Ct. at 2770-71.

Within months of the Maislin decision, bills were introduced in both houses of Congress to counteract its effects. See S. 2933 and H.R. 3243, 101st Cong., 2d Sess. (1990); S.Rep. No. 448, 101st Cong., 2d Sess. (1990). Congress eventually passed the NRA in November 1993, and President Clinton signed it on December 3, 1993. P.L. No. 103-180, 107 Stat. 2044, (codified at 49 U.S.C. Sec. 10701(f) and at scattered sections of that title, including amendments to Secs. 10761 and 10762).

Most provisions of the NRA apply only to carriers no longer transporting property. 49 U.S.C. Sec. 10701(f)(1). The statute provides a settlement option for shippers faced with undercharge claims. Shippers may choose to settle such claims at five to twenty percent of their value. Sec. 10701(f)(2)-(4). It also exempts small businesses, charities, and shippers of recyclable materials from undercharge suits. Sec. 10701(f)(9). Jones did not contest before the district court that the

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appellee shippers are small businesses pursuant to that subsection, and on that basis summary judgments were granted.

II.

On appeal Jones argues that Congress did not intend the NRA to apply to bankrupt carriers, that the Bankruptcy Code precludes nonbankruptcy statutes from affecting the value of property in the estate, and that application of the NRA to it would result in an unconstitutional taking. The United States intervened in these appeals to defend the constitutionality of the NRA and its applicability to Jones.

A.

Although the NRA does not discuss bankrupt carriers, the legislative history has many references to them. Bankrupt carriers were causing a litigation crisis by bringing hundreds of thousands of undercharge claims. See, e.g., The Negotiated Rates Issue and Proposed Legislative Solutions Thereto: Hearing before the Subcomm. on Surface Transportation of the House Comm. on Public Works and Transportation, 103d Cong., 1st Sess. 1-10, 140 (1993); 139 Cong. Rec. H9596-9598 (November 15, 1993); id. at Sec. 16186-87 (November 18, 1993). Opponents of the NRA were concerned that employees of bankrupt carriers would not receive compensation owed them if carriers could not collect the undercharges. See, e.g., 139 Cong.Rec. H9597 (November 15, 1993) (comments of Congressman Lipinski).

Jones contends that Congress originally envisioned that the NRA would reach bankrupt carriers, but that a last minute amendment excluded them. Jones points to Sec. 9 of the NRA, 49 U.S.C. Sec. 10701 note, which was added by the House after S. 412 had already passed in the Senate. It reads:

Nothing in this Act (including any amendment made by this Act) shall be construed as limiting or otherwise affecting application of title 11, United States Code, relating to bankruptcy; title 28, United States Code, relating to the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States (including bankruptcy courts); or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

Jones argues that the plain meaning of Sec. 9 is that the NRA is not intended to apply to bankrupt carriers. It contends that if the NRA is read as divesting bankrupt carriers of their undercharge claims, it is "limiting or otherwise affecting application of title 11."

The meaning of Sec. 9 is not so clear. "Limiting" and "affecting" are terms which are susceptible to both very narrow and very broad constructions. It is therefore appropriate to look to the legislative history to insure that our reading is consistent with congressional intent.

Jones argues that several letters written by members of Congress indicate that a political compromise led to a retreat from application of the NRA to bankrupt carriers. The Senate passed its version of the NRA on July 1, 1993. Shortly before the House was to consider H.R. 2121 in November, Congressman Jack Brooks, chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, requested that the bill be referred to his committee before coming to a vote on the floor. He wrote to Congressman Norman Mineta, chair of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, and the leading sponsor of H.R. 2121:

As you know under [House rules, the Committee on the Judiciary] has jurisdiction over "bankruptcy" and "Federal Courts." Based on this jurisdiction, we are concerned that H.R. 2121, as currently drafted, could be construed to limit or otherwise affect application of Title 28, United States Code, relating to the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States (including bankruptcy courts). On the basis of these concerns and others, our Committee has requested sequential referral of the bill.

However, it is my understanding that as a result of staff discussions on this...

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