The top four U.S. railroads this week appealed the upgrading of a price-fixing lawsuit to class action status, arguing no wrongdoing has been proven and they could receive “unwarranted pressure” to settle.
The appeal states defendants BNSF Railway, Union Pacific Railroad, Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation could be subject to damages of $10 billion or more in a case that could involve about 30,000 shippers, according to the 32-page filing. The sum the eight shippers accuse the railroads of overcharging was calculated through a study and remains sealed.
“Members of the class have very different circumstances, defying common proof that they were all injured by the alleged conspiracy to fix rail fuel surcharges,” wrote Carter Phillips, the railroads’ attorney. “Many shippers, including those in the largest category of rail traffic (intermodal), paid surcharges under the same formulas that were in place well before the alleged conspiracy, which plaintiffs concede were non-collusive.”
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Paul Freidman on June 21 granted class certification to the lawsuit brought by shippers Olin, US Magnesium, Dust Pro, Carter Distribution, Dakota Granite, Donnelly Commodities, Nyrstar Taylor Chemicals and Strates Shows. The lawsuit, which began as several lawsuits first filed in 2007, accuses the railroads of conspiring to fix, raise, maintain or stabilize prices from mid-2003 until 2008.