LAWSUIT UPDATE: OOIDA asks FMCSA to pull carrier’s authority

By Coral Beach, staff writer | 12/5/2007

Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007 – After losing a federal court battle with more than 600 truckers in 2004, the owners of a trucking firm in the Kansas City area transferred their assets and set up shop under another company name, which spurred OOIDA to launch an unusual challenge.

The Association has filed a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration seeking an investigation of SLX Inc., which is owned by Carl E. Higgs, Alice Norma Higgs, and their son, Scott L. Higgs. The three family members also owned Ledar Transport Inc.

The Higgs family members and Ledar were on the losing end of a case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in which Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. ruled that the carrier’s leases violated federal law. The judge also ruled that the individual owners were liable.

OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston considered that a key victory because it “pierced the corporate veil” and held the individuals personally responsible for damages owed to drivers.

Then the Higgs family members set up SLX Inc. and have been “engaged in the same systematic and serious violations of the truth-in-leasing regulations as found against Ledar,” according to the OOIDA complaint filed with FMCSA.

According to truckers, the SLX leases do not properly disclose and document chargebacks and they require owner-operators to enter into lease-purchase agreements with businesses controlled by the Higgs family. Truckers who have completed lease-purchase deals through SLX have also been denied the titles to their trucks.

“When individuals ignore the law, you have to come at it from a different way,” said David Cohen, one of the attorneys on OOIDA’s legal team.

That’s why the Association asked FMCSA to investigate SLX and revoke its operating authority. The association also wants the FMCSA to ban the Higgs family members from obtaining operating authority in the future.

The FMCSA asked SLX and the Higgs family to respond, but no response had been filed as of Wednesday, Dec. 5. OOIDA’s legal team and staff are cooperating with FMCSA officials in the investigation.

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