More than 10 years after the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed suit against the Tennessee Public Service Commission and PSC Chairman Keith Bissell over truckers' rights, the state finally wrote a check for $583,700 to OOIDA for attorney fees and costs ordered by the court when OOIDA won the suit.
OOIDA's lawsuit, filed in March 1990, was prompted by discriminatory abuse of out-of-state truckers and touched off a chain of events that culminated in the abolishment of the Tennessee PSC.
In 1994, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Echols ruled that Bissell had illegally discriminated against truck drivers who refused to contribute to his campaign fund. Evidence presented by
OOIDA during the trial prompted the Federal Highway Administration to withhold federal funding and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to launch their own fact-finding mission. The state legislature dismantled the PSC altogether in 1995.
In 1997, the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit voided the injunction won by OOIDA on the grounds that it was "too vague." However, the appeals court did not void Echols' declaration that the truckers' rights had been violated. The 6th Circuit sent the case back to Echols to consider whether the injunction was still needed since Bissell was no longer a Commissioner. Echols, in his second ruling, agreed with the appellate court that the injunction was unnecessary, but found that OOIDA still deserved to be awarded partial payment for legal costs.
The money will go to the association's Litigation Fund to assist in the funding of other legal actions directed at protecting the rights of professional truckers, according to the association's web site.
OOIDA's attorneys plan to negotiate with the state on interest and on the attorney's fees incurred during the appeal.