Truckers’ legal team prepares for contempt hearing Friday against Arctic

By Coral Beach, staff writer | 12/11/2007

A hearing is scheduled Friday, Dec. 14, in a case brought by truckers against Arctic Express Inc. The truckers contend that the carrier and its owner should be held in contempt of court for failing to make settlement payments as ordered by a federal judge.

Originally filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association on June 30, 1997, in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, the case against Arctic centered on the carrier’s failure to return escrow funds to truckers as required by federal law. The case was certified as a class action in September 2001.

On July 16, 2004, the federal judge on the case approved a settlement and awarded attorney fees. He awarded the truckers damages and interest totaling more than $5.58 million. However, because of bankruptcy, the carrier was allowed to agree to pay only $900,000.

Arctic made two payments of $75,000 each, but failed to make payments in June and December of 2006 totaling $250,000. The judge approved a revised payment schedule this past summer, but Arctic defaulted. The first payment on the revised schedule was to be made on July 25, with monthly payments on the 25th of every month. Arctic has not made any of the scheduled payments.

OOIDA has asked that the carrier and its president and sole owner, Richard Durst, be held in contempt of court. On Nov. 6 the judge issued an opinion and order that favored the truckers and set a hearing on OOIDA’s contempt motion for Dec 14. The Nov. 6 order stated that if the defendants do not show cause why the payments are not being made they will be held in civil contempt of court.

In related action, OOIDA has filed a federal suit against Comerica Bank to recover the balance of the $5.58 million. The Association contends that the bank improperly used drivers’ escrow money to meet Arctic’s financial obligations and should therefore pay the balance.

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