Railroads want price-fixing lawsuits at one venue

A photograph of a train that is about to get onto a rail bridge. There is snow on the trees by the bridge.

The Class I railroads that have been named in numerous lawsuits alleging price fixing are seeking to move those lawsuits to one court, according to a recent court filing.

BNSF (NYSE: BRK), Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP), CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) are asking to transfer rail freight fuel surcharge antitrust litigation to one of two court locations, according to a Dec. 19 court filing for MDL No. 2925 [MDL stands for multi-district legislation]. 

The U.S. Judicial Panel on MDL will hold a hearing Jan. 30 in Tampa, Florida, that addresses this request.

The railroads want the lawsuits transferred to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia or the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The lawsuits currently are filed at 16 different U.S. district courts throughout the nation.

Another option is to transfer the litigation to MDL. No. 1869, which was held at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and is part of a longstanding proceeding on whether shippers have the ability to form a class action lawsuit against the Class I railroads on fuel surcharge price fixing. The U.S. District Appeals Court ruled in August that shippers would have to file individual lawsuits instead of a class action lawsuit, and shippers subsequently filed dozens of lawsuits in September and October.

Shippers’ lawsuits allege that between 2003 and 2008 the railroads engaged in price fixing by assessing fuel surcharges and saying they were part of a fuel cost recovery program, thus violating the Sherman Act.

While the bulk of shippers’ lawsuits were filed in the fall, additional companies have filed similar suits in recent weeks. In December, Total Petrochemicals and Refining joined a list of more than three dozen companies and shipping groups alleging price fixing, while International Paper filed its suit Monday.