CHICAGO After five years
of legal wrangling, eight shippers who allege that major U.S.
freight railroads engaged in a price-fixing conspiracy via rail
fuel surcharges have got the case certified as a class-action
Under the ruling in U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia, additional
shippers will be able to seek restitution should the lawsuit be
decided in the plaintiffs favor.
The eight plaintiffs in the case
include Clayton, Mo.-based copper alloy producer Olin Corp. and
Salt Lake City-based U.S. Magnesium LLC. The defendants are
Forth Worth, Texas-based BNSF Railway Co., Jacksonville,
Fla.-based CSX Transportation Inc., Norfolk, Va.-based Norfolk
Southern Corp. and Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific
Stephen Neuwirth, one of the
co-lead counsels representing the plaintiffs, said that
together the four railroads control nearly 90 percent of
railroad freight traffic in the United States.
From mid-2003 until 2008,
railroad freight shippers across the nation were "subjected to
an endless string of rate increases by railroads made possible
by a concentrated market structure, tight capacity and
coordinated pricing," Neuwirth alleged. "This harmed both the
shippers and American consumers, who had to foot the bill for
these excessive fuel surcharges."
In their original complaint, the
shippers alleged that the railroads conspired to fix, raise,
maintain or stabilize prices of rail freight transportation
services sold in the United States through the use of rail fuel
surcharges added to customers bills. They claimed the
railroads moved in lockstep to fix the fuel surcharges, which
were unrelated to fuel cost increases.
The defendants counsel
could not be reached for comment.