By Coral Beach
More than 1,000 truckers are expected to be on the receiving end when the final accounting of escrow funds is completed in a federal case that OOIDA and truckers filed against C.R. England more than six years ago.
In late October, U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart in Utah ruled that the motor carrier’s owners had to file a “final accounting” regarding the escrow accounts of all members involved in the class action. He gave them 30 days to produce the accounting.
“Upon the submission of the finalized accounting of the escrow accounts, the case will be referred to Magistrate Judge David Nuffer for a truck-by-truck analysis of actual damages,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
Judge Stewart ruled in June of 2007 that lease agreements used by the carrier between June 1998 and August 2002 violated federal truth-in-leasing regs in areas of chargebacks, forced purchases and escrow provisions. Some of the violations related to incidents where the carrier had marked up tires and other parts by 30 percent and charged owner-operators 60-percent markups on fuel discounts.
Since that ruling, both the carrier and OOIDA have been working through the court to determine which truckers are owed money. The motor carrier contends that many of the truckers owe C.R. England money for “set-offs” against their settlement sheets. In his most recent order, the judge ruled that the carrier cannot keep the truckers’ escrow money for “truck refurbishment charges.”
“The refurbishment charges were the single largest set-off category – approximately $7 million,” said David Cohen of The Cullen Law Firm, which is handling the case for OOIDA. “Thus, C.R. England cannot deduct truck refurbishment costs from class members’ escrow funds.
“By excluding the refurbishment set-offs, the judge’s ruling will have a huge impact on over 1,000 class members ... This means that these class members, under the court’s analysis, have proven ‘actual damages’ and will be entitled to restitution and interest.” LL