United States District Court, D. Kansas
CANDACE FOX, ANTHONY GILLESPIE, and CHARLES SCHRECKENBACH, Individually and on behalf of a class of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
TRANSAM LEASING, INC., and TRANSAM TRUCKING, INC., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
THOMAS MARTEN, JUDGE
matter is before the court on plaintiffs' motion for
summary judgment (Dkt. 178). The motion argues plaintiffs are
entitled to a declaratory judgment stating that the
defendants violated a Department of Transportation
“Truth-in-Leasing” regulation. Defendants oppose
the motion. For the reasons stated herein, the court finds
that the motion should be granted.
are three “owner-operator” truck drivers who
represent a class of similarly-situated persons on Count III
of the amended complaint (Dkt. 90).Defendants are federally
regulated motor carriers. Count III alleges that defendants
violated 49 C.F.R. § 376.12(i), a regulation applicable
to motor carriers who lease trucks and other transportation
equipment. The regulation provides that lessors
(i.e., truck owners) shall not be required to
purchase or rent any equipment or services from a carrier as
a condition of entering into a lease agreement. Count III
alleges that defendants violated the regulation by requiring
plaintiffs and others to pay a $15 weekly fee to use
defendants' satellite communications system. Count III
prayed for damages for violation of the regulation as well as
declaratory and injunctive relief.
April of 2015, Judge Murguia granted plaintiffs' motion
for partial summary judgment as to Count III, finding
defendants' imposition of the satellite fee was a forced
purchase prohibited by the regulation. Dkt. 134. Although
plaintiffs failed to cite any evidence of damages resulting
from the practice, Judge Murguia concluded that proof of
actual damages was not an essential element of the claim, and
he denied defendants' competing motion for summary
judgment as to that issue.
interlocutory appeal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the finding
that the $15 usage fee was a violation of 49 C.F.R. §
376.12(i). Fox v. TransAm Leasing, Inc., 839 F.3d
1209 (10th Cir. 2016). The court stated that this finding
“will support the truckers' requests for injunctive
and declaratory relief.” Id. at 1211. But the
court also found that plaintiffs' failure to present any
evidence of damages meant the district court should have
entered summary judgment for defendants on plaintiffs'
damage claim. Id. at 1219. The case was remanded for
further proceedings consistent with the Tenth Circuit's
opinion. Id. at 1220.
Motion for Summary Judgment.
move for summary judgment, arguing they are entitled to a
declaratory judgment stating that defendants' forced
purchase of satellite communication services violated 49
C.F.R. § 376.12(i). Dkt. 178 at 1. They argue a
declaratory judgment will provide a definitive ruling and
prevent such illegal conduct in the future. They argue
defendants' cessation of the practice does not eliminate
the need for declaratory relief, asserting that defendants
deliberately charged the fees for years, they did not remove
the fees until after suit was filed, and defendants
maintained that the fees were lawful until the Tenth Circuit
argue there is no actual controversy to support a declaratory
judgment, because defendants stopped charging the fee in
April 2014, they removed the fee from its leases, and they
have no intention of re-imposing the fee. They contend a
declaratory judgment would thus have no impact on the
parties' behavior. Dkt. 184 at 11. Defendants also point
out that declaratory relief is discretionary and contend that
the factors in State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v.
Mhoon, 31 F.3d 979 (10th Cir. 1994), as well as
plaintiffs' delay in moving for a declaratory judgment,
weigh against such relief. Finally, defendants argue that the
statute creating a private right of action for violation of
the regulations does not authorize declaratory relief. Dkt.
184 at 17.
judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” when it
is essential to the claim, and the issues of fact are
“genuine” if the proffered evidence permits a
reasonable jury to decide the issue in either party's
favor. Haynes v. Level 3 Communs., 456 F.3d 1215,
1219 (10th Cir. 2006). The movant bears the initial burden of
proof and must show the lack of evidence on an essential
element of the claim. Thom v. Bristol-Myers Squibb
Co., 353 F.3d 848, 851 (10th Cir. 2004) (citing
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23
(1986)). The nonmovant must then bring forth specific facts
showing a genuine issue for trial. Garrison v. Gambro,
Inc., 428 F.3d 933, 935 (10th Cir. 2005). The court
views all evidence and reasonable inferences in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party. LifeWise Master
Funding v. Telebank, 374 F.3d 917, 927 (10th Cir. 2004).
purposes of the motion, the court finds the following facts
to be uncontroverted. Plaintiffs filed this action in
November of 2012. The complaint included a class action claim
alleging defendants were violating 49 C.F.R. § 376.12(i)
by requiring forced purchases of satellite communication
services. Plaintiffs moved for class certification in
December of 2013. In April of 2014, defendants stopped
charging truckers the $15 satellite fee. Since that time,
defendants' contracts have not included a satellite
communication fee or anything similar to it. The President of
TransAm Trucking, Russ McElliott, testified that the decision
to remove the fee is permanent. Defendants continued to
assert on appeal that the $15 satellite communication fee was
lawful. The mandate of the Tenth Circuit affirming Judge
Murguia's finding that imposition of the fee was unlawful
was entered on November 9, 2016.
the named plaintiffs have driven for defendants since 2012,
although members of the plaintiff class who were charged the
fee in the past continue to drive for defendants.
14704(a)(2) of Title 49, U.S. Code, provides a private right
of action for damages caused by a motor carrier's
violation of federal transportation statutes and regulations.
Section 14704(a) authorizes an action for injunctive relief
for certain violations. These remedies are in addition to ...