Damages phase of Ledar trial set to begin in January 2006

By Coral Beach, staff writer | 2/22/2005

Having already ruled in favor of OOIDA and more than 600 truckers in a class action lawsuit against Ledar Transport Inc., a federal judge has set a Jan. 24, 2006, date for the damages phase of the trial in Kansas City, MO.

The scheduling memo from U.S. District Court Judge Fernando J. Gaitan Jr. also sets specific deadlines in the coming months for OOIDA’s legal team and the attorney representing Ledar Transport and its owners, Carl, Norma and Scott Higgs.

Judge Gaitan ruled in favor of OOIDA and the drivers on Dec. 30, 2004, holding the owners of the Kansas City, MO, trucking company personally liable. OOIDA executives and its legal team said that was particularly significant.

Attorneys for OOIDA are now preparing to go after “several millions” in damages.

“We intend to seek the largest possible damage award under the law,” said attorney David Cohen. “We will pursue every legal remedy available to us, including against the individuals involved.”

Cohen tried the case for OOIDA along with attorney Randall Herrick-Stare, another member of The Cullen Law Firm in Washington, DC, which represents OOIDA. Both attorneys said the court’s ruling that the owners of the trucking company are personally liable for the damages, in addition to the company being liable, is very significant.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston agreed and said the ruling is a major step in the association’s pursuit of fair treatment for truckers. In ruling that the company owners are personally liable for money the company owes to drivers, the judge basically said that the owners’ personal assets can be used to pay the drivers.

“This is a slam dunk,” Johnston said. “One of the most significant findings pierced the corporate veil and the court is holding the individuals (who own Ledar) personally liable.

“This should send shivers down the spines of those folks who have heretofore felt they could rip off truckers and avoid personal liability by hiding behind the corporate veil. This decision by the court to hold owners and officers of companies liable for violations of the federal regulations will go a long way in helping us recover accounts from carriers, especially those that hide behind bankruptcy protection filings and the quick sale or manipulation of corporate assets.”

In his ruling against Ledar Transport, Hawthorn Leasing and the companies’ owners – Carl and Norma Higgs and their son Scott Higgs – the federal judge agreed with OOIDA and drivers who claimed that federal truth-in-leasing regulations had been violated.

At a three-day trial that wrapped up Sept. 1, 2004, drivers testified that they had been lured into leases and lease-purchase agreements with the company and then charged so much in fees and chargebacks that they often ended up driving for free. In some cases, drivers’ settlement sheets showed that they actually owed Ledar money at the end of a pay period, even though they drove thousands of miles.

By Coral Beach, Land Line staff

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