Owner–operator Indep. Drivers Ass'n Inc. v. Supervalu Inc.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Citation651 F.3d 857,161 Lab.Cas. P 35936
Docket NumberNo. 09–3577.,09–3577.
PartiesOWNER–OPERATOR INDEPENDENT DRIVERS ASSOCIATION, INC.; Joseph Rajkovacz; Carl Schaefer; Carl Schaefer, LLC, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Appellants,v.SUPERVALU, INC., Appellee.
Decision Date11 August 2011


Randall S. Herrick–Stare, argued, Paul Damien Cullen, Sr., Paul D. Cullen, Jr., on the brief, Washington, DC, for Appellants.Steven J. Wells, argued, Glenn M. Salvo, Gabrielle D. Mead, on the brief, Minneapolis, MN, for Appellee.Before SMITH, COLLOTON, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.SMITH, Circuit Judge.

Owner–Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. (OOIDA), Joseph Rajkovacz, and Carl Schaefer, LLC (Schaefer), sued Supervalu, Inc. (Supervalu) under 49 U.S.C. § 14103(a) for the reimbursement of fees associated with the loading and unloading of its trucks at Supervalu's facilities. In a pair of orders granting summary judgment in Supervalu's favor, the district court 1 construed § 14103(a) to require that OOIDA prove, as part of its prima facie case, that (a) its truckers were not otherwise reimbursed by their respective shippers and (b) the amount of insurance coverage that Supervalu required OOIDA drivers to maintain was unreasonable. According to the district court, OOIDA failed to present more than a scintilla of evidence as to either of these elements. Finally, the district court also construed § 14704(a)(1) to preclude the recovery of monetary relief as a remedy for the violations that OOIDA alleges. For the following reasons, we affirm.

I. Background

As this is an appeal from the grant of summary judgment, we review and recite the facts in the light most favorable to OOIDA as the non-moving party. Mirax Chem. Prods. Corp. v. First Interstate Commercial Corp., 950 F.2d 566, 569 (8th Cir.1991). OOIDA, incorporated in Missouri and maintaining its principal place of business there, is a nonprofit trade association of truck drivers who own and operate heavy-duty trucks. Rajkovacz, also a Missouri citizen and a current member of OOIDA, was an independent truck owner-operator who delivered goods on a per-load basis. Likewise, Schaefer, a Delaware corporation maintaining its principal place of business in Ohio, is an independent owner-operator that delivers on a per-load basis. For simplicity, we will refer to OOIDA, Rajkovacz, and Schaefer collectively as, “OOIDA.” Supervalu, a Delaware corporation headquartered in Minnesota, is a grocery wholesaler that received goods shipped by OOIDA.

This case involves a practice known in interstate-trucking parlance as “lumping.” “Lumping” refers to the loading, and, more often, unloading of goods from a truck upon delivery. Naturally, the individuals who perform these loading and unloading services are commonly referred to as “lumpers.” Prior to 2005, opportunistic lumpers unaffiliated with Supervalu habitually congregated at the loading docks of Supervalu's distribution centers to solicit their services to OOIDA and other arriving truckers. But, in 2005, Supervalu contracted with professional unloading companies for their exclusive lumping services, resulting in only Supervalu's lumpers being present at its distribution centers. In March 2005, Supervalu instituted a new insurance coverage requirement applicable only to drivers like OOIDA, who opted to load or unload their own vehicles rather than hire Supervalu's new lumpers. As a precondition for self-loading/unloading, OOIDA and other truckers had to show proof of general-liability insurance significantly exceeding the minimum required by federal law.2 In August 2005, Supervalu reduced the amount of insurance it required of self-loaders/unloaders,3 and after OOIDA commenced the instant lawsuit on December 5, 2005, Supervalu finally relaxed its policy to require proof of insurance coverage merely matching federal law.

Nevertheless, on December 5, 2005, OOIDA, representing its members as well as other similarly situated truckers, filed this putative class action against Supervalu, alleging, inter alia,4 that Supervalu's insurance-coverage requirement effectively required OOIDA drivers to purchase Supervalu's new lumping services, in violation of § 14103(a). Section 14103(a) requires that a truck owner or operator be compensated when a shipper or receiver requires him or her to utilize lumpers. OOIDA contended that Supervalu, by ostensibly requiring self-loading/unloading truckers to tender proof of insurance exceeding statutory minimums, effectively compelled OOIDA truckers to purchase Supervalu lumping services at their own cost, with no subsequent reimbursement. For these alleged violations, OOIDA sought “restitution,” as well as an “accounting and disgorgement of money paid by drivers for lumping services between March 28 and December 20 of 2005.”

In response, Supervalu countered with three primary arguments. First, Supervalu contended that it never expressly required OOIDA under § 14103(a) to utilize its lumping service, and that self-loading/unloading truckers retained their prerogative to self-load/unload so long as they maintained adequate insurance. According to Supervalu, its insurance requirement could be construed as a requirement to hire lumpers only if Supervalu mandated an unreasonable amount of coverage. Alternatively, Supervalu urged that, even assuming arguendo that it required OOIDA to employ Supervalu lumpers, OOIDA produced no evidence of a violation under § 14103(a) because all plaintiff truck drivers were subsequently reimbursed their lumping fees by their respective shippers. As the basis for this contention, Supervalu relied on § 14103(a)'s plain language, which provides that:

[w]henever a shipper or receiver of property requires that any person who owns or operates a motor vehicle transporting property in interstate commerce ... be assisted in the loading or unloading of such vehicle, the shipper or receiver shall be responsible for providing such assistance or shall compensate the owner or operator for all costs associated with securing and compensating the person or persons providing such assistance.

(Emphasis added.)

Finally, Supervalu contended that, notwithstanding the merits of OOIDA's case, 49 U.S.C. § 14704(a)(1)'s remedial scheme authorizes only “injunctive relief” for violations of § 14103, not “restitution” or an “accounting and disgorgement of money paid” as sought by OOIDA. See 49 U.S.C. § 14704(a)(1) (“A person may bring a civil action for injunctive relief for violations of sections 14102 and 14103.”).

The district court set out its view of the law governing the case in two orders resolving two separate rounds of cross-motions for summary judgment. In the first order, dated November 29, 2006, the district court denied summary judgment to both parties on OOIDA's claim under § 14103(a). Specifically, the district court “agree[d] [with Supervalu] that the reasonableness of the insurance coverage requirement is key to the determination of whether Supervalu violated § 14103(a)[,] and that “Supervalu cannot be considered to have required the use of lumpers solely by its imposition of a requirement for insurance above the statutory minimum if the insurance coverage requirement is reasonable.” Construing the requirement's reasonableness to be a disputed issue of material fact, and noting that merits discovery was in its infancy, the district court denied both parties' motions for summary judgment.

Additionally, the court denied OOIDA's motion to strike Supervalu's eleventh affirmative defense, which asserted non-liability on the ground that OOIDA ‘ha[d] already been paid by shippers or others for any lumping [-]service costs incurred at Supervalu facilities during the applicable time period.’ The district court agreed with Supervalu's reading of § 14103(a)'s plain language. The district court concluded that its interpretation of the statute might be burdensome to drivers like OOIDA “but is not absurd.” The district court ruled in its order that, [t]o prove that Supervalu violated § 14103(a), [OOIDA] must show that neither a receiver nor a shipper paid a driver for lumping service costs incurred at Supervalu.” The district court accompanied this rule with the following footnote:

Under the court's interpretation, plaintiffs must prove as an element of the offense that neither the shipper nor receiver paid for the lumping costs. It is therefore improper to characterize this as an affirmative defense, but there is nevertheless no reason to strike it.

Finally, the district court granted summary judgment to Supervalu as to its second counterclaim, which sought declaratory judgment that § 14103(a) did not afford OOIDA a right to monetary relief. Again, relying on the statute's plain language, the district court found “no statute explicitly authoriz[ing] restitution as a remedy for an alleged violation of § 14103 against a receiver of property,” and consequently “determine[d] that if Congress wished to provide a private damages remedy, it knew how to do so and [would have done] so expressly.’ Moreover, the trial court rejected OOIDA's contention that Congress, in employing the phrase “injunctive relief,” necessarily evoked the broad equity jurisdiction of district courts.

On March 24, 2009, the district court resolved the parties' second round of cross-motions for summary judgment. Relevant to this appeal, the district court disposed of OOIDA's claims under § 14103(a). The district court granted summary judgment to Supervalu as to (1) its counterclaim for declaratory judgment that it did not violate § 14103(a) and, correspondingly, (2) OOIDA's affirmative claim for injunctive relief under § 14103(a). As the basis for its ruling, the district court found that plaintiffs have not presented more than a ‘scintilla’ of evidence that drivers were not reimbursed for lumping services at Supervalu docks.” Having...

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