OOIDA v. C.R. England update: Court-ordered accounting halfway done

By Sandi Soendker, Land Line editor-in-chief | 5/23/2012

C.R. England and OOIDA are about halfway through a lengthy and complicated process of figuring out how much in actual damages CRE will have to pay members of the class action lawsuit that was won by OOIDA five years ago.

According to an April joint status report filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah and Judge David Nuffer, the parties believe they can complete the process – in part at least – by July 16, 2012.

“After many years of delay, the equitable accounting ordered by the court regarding owner-operator escrow funds, is finally nearing completion,” said David A. Cohen of The Cullen Law Firm, OOIDA’s litigation counsel.

Cohen said he is optimistic that final judgment will be entered in the C.R. England case by the end of this year.

What the parties are working on now are “stipulations” regarding the actual damages due each one of these class members, using a methodology approved by the court.

Each individual spreadsheet tallies the amount of actual damages, if any. After receiving the spreadsheets from OOIDA, C.R. England analyzes the data and proposed stipulations. Once England concludes its driver-by-driver review, it sends a memo to OOIDA in which the motor carrier agrees or disputes the amount of damages. In the case of a dispute, CRE sends a counter proposal, which is then accepted or rejected by OOIDA.

And while the per-class member accounting task moves forward, there are details to be resolved. Two groups of drivers have been set aside for now in order to speed up the process. While drivers with accident-related setoffs and drivers that leased more than one truck from England will not be included in the current stipulation process, attorneys for both sides project these cases should be resolved by late summer.

“The parties have agreed to submit all stipulations of actual damages regarding individual class members by the end of August,” said Cohen. “Any remaining issues will be set before the court in September for adjudication and final resolution.”  

OOIDA has identified those class members with accident-related setoffs. Regarding owner-operators with multiple trucks, both OOIDA and CRE are still trying to iron out a mutually agreeable method of figuring out the actual damages in these cases.

Cohen said the ultimate outcome of the process will mean that there will be a judgment entered totaling the actual damages that CRE owes individual class members, plus reasonable interest.

The stipulations do not include the “reasonable” interest ordered by the court, which in some cases equals 18 percent a year, or three to four times the original amount.

THE CASE. The case of OOIDA v. C.R. England was filed in 2002 and tried in 2006 before the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, UT, over leasing violations.

PLAINTIFFS. Plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit are OOIDA and Thomas Shutt, William Piper, Don Sullivan Sr., James Murphy and Walter Williams, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated.

DEFENDANT. The defendant is Salt Lake City-based motor carrier C.R. England Inc.

THE RULING. In June 2007, Judge Ted Stewart ruled that the lease agreement CRE used with its owner-operators between 1998 and the summer of 2002 violated federal regulations in several respects, including failure to specify mark-ups on charge-back items and by forcing owner-operators to purchase administrative services from the carrier. 

The court also held that England’s lease violated the escrow provisions of the leasing regs, and specifically found that the motor carrier had improperly managed thousands of truckers’ escrow accounts. 

The court ruled that the motor carrier must provide an accounting of what happened to those funds. In October 2008, Judge Stewart held that individual class members would be entitled to restitution, along with “payment of reasonable interest,” if they had positive escrow balances, after consideration of any allowed setoffs. The judge then referred the case to the magistrate judge to oversee the disposition of individual class member’s escrow claims.

STATUS. The “truck by truck” analysis is now in process.

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