Massachusetts toll lawsuit draws 1,700 plaintiffs

| 6/8/2009

A lawsuit against the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has now attracted more than 1,700 plaintiffs from 22 states, including truckers and trucking companies.

Plaintiffs seek to get money back from the past three years of using the Massachusetts Turnpike. They claim the turnpike has unfairly diverted at least $442 million to pay off debts associated with the Big Dig.

“The turnpike authority is using the toll money to go to other things,” plaintiff Bob Ackley told Land Line Magazine. “It’s all illegal how they divert the toll money.”

Ackley, co-founder of the Toll Equity Trust, said toll revenue should be used only for the upkeep of a specific roadway on which a toll is levied.

Ackley said one plaintiff in the case, a trucking company from Springfield, MA, is seeking the return of $30,000 in tolls.

On Monday, June 8, plaintiff attorneys and a group of toll payers asked the Middlesex Superior Court to attach turnpike assets to the lawsuit. An attachment would prevent the turnpike from selling any assets before a judge has a chance to rule in the case.

Attorney for the plaintiffs Jan Schlichtmann helped the plaintiffs form Toll Equity Trust, which allows toll payers with claims against the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to pool resources and pursue the class action. Schlichtmann previously told Land Line that any proceeds from a victory in the case would be distributed to the plaintiffs via the trust.

The equity group’s trustee is former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger who has a name for seeking fairness for taxpayers. Also joining the team of late is Daniel Winslow, a former District Court justice and former chief legal counsel to Gov. Mitt Romney, and Don Griswold of the firm Reed Smith LLP.

Ackley said the plaintiff group has grown significantly since Land Line Magazine and Land Line Now first informed truckers about the cause.

“The more people we get, the stronger we are,” Ackley said.

“I’ll bet most of the people out-of-state are truck drivers,” he added. “We’ve got 22 states now. They’re coming from all over the place.”

OOIDA is not a named plaintiff, but Ackley said he is confident that OOIDA members are among the group.

– By David Tanner, staff writer

See related LL article: Toll payers sue Mass Pike over ‘illegal’ diversion of revenue