Accounting work has begun, and thousands of truckers may be one step closer to recovering money from C.R. England Inc. in relation to unlawfully retained escrow funds. The escrow funds include a maintenance reserve account, a performance bond, and a fuel/road tax escrow.
Lawyers representing the Utah-based motor carrier told U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart that they expect to have the accounting of the owner-operators’ escrow money done by March 20. A hearing is set for June 2, at which time the judge is likely to make additional rulings on whether C.R. England is required to return the funds to individual class members and, if so, in what amounts.
The case was originally filed in June 2002 and transferred to the U.S. District Court, District of Utah. On Oct. 3, 2006, Judge Ted Stewart issued favorable pretrial rulings for the truckers, marking the first time a federal court ruled that carriers’ leases must disclose markups and fees on chargebacks. The trial was in late October 2006.
On June 20, 2007, the judge ruled in the case, siding with the truckers on some issues. The judge found that the lease C.R. England used from 1998 until the summer of 2002 violated the leasing regulations. He also ruled that the new lease agreement the company has been using since the summer of 2002 is completely compliant with the federal leasing regulations.
Jim Johnston, president and CEO of OOIDA, said he was encouraged by the fact that the judge has ordered C.R. England to account for every penny of every escrow fund.
“The Association will continue to fight for the return of all unlawfully retained escrow funds during the remaining phase of this case,” Johnston said.
OOIDA’s initial analysis showed that several million dollars in owner-operator escrow funds are at issue under the old lease. The class includes about 3,000 owners or operators who had lease agreements with C.R. England from August 1998 through August 2002.
Judge Stewart noted that C.R. England’s leases failed to comply with the most basic requirements of the leasing regulations – namely, that the lease must set forth the specific items to which the escrow funds may be applied.
– By Coral Beach, staff editor