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U.S. appellate court reverses class-certification decision for fuel surcharge-fixing lawsuit against four Class Is

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday issued a ruling that reversed a lower court's decision to grant class-certification status to a fuel surcharge-fixing lawsuit against four Class Is.

The lower court's decision in the "Rail Freight Fuel Surcharge Antitrust Litigation" case didn't fully consider the potential harm to BNSF Railway Co., CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad, the appellate court determined. In addition, the method of calculating potential damages was flawed, the court ruled.

The railroads face damages of about $10 billion in the case, which involves 30,000 shippers. The lawsuit claims the railroads conspired to fix, raise, maintain or stabilize their fuel surcharges from mid-2003 until 2008.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in June 2012 granted class certification to the lawsuit and the railroads appealed the decision in July 2012, arguing that no wrongdoing had been been proved.

The appellate court now has remanded the case to a federal district court to reconsider its decision in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that tightened class-certification requirements, said officials at law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in a prepared statement.

"While this obviously was not our preferred outcome, we are gratified that the case was remanded," said Stephen Neuwirth, an attorney at the firm who serves as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "We are confident that we will be able to demonstrate that the damages model in fact satisfies the highest standards that have been set by the courts, and that ultimately the case will move forward as a class action."

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More News from 8/12/2013