By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor
The Arizona Supreme Court ruling guarantees that truckers will get their day in court in a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Swift Transportation Corp. The plaintiffs in the class action claim the company routinely shorts drivers on mileage – and therefore pay – and are entitled to compensation.
The state’s high court moved on Tuesday, Sept. 6, to vacate an appellate decision, which allows a lower court’s decision to stand that allows the class to be certified and protected.
There are no trial dates yet, but the lead attorney for the plaintiffs is hopeful about truckers’ chances in court.
“We are pleased that the court agreed with us that Swift drivers deserve to take this case to trial,” Rob Carey, a partner in the Phoenix office of Seattle law firm Hagens Berman, said in a statement. “We believe that the company illegally took millions in unpaid wages from its drivers.”
The plaintiffs claim that the software Swift uses to calculate mileage has been shortchanging drivers by an average of 7 to 10 percent since 1998.
“We’ve got a very good set of facts,” Carey told Land Line Magazine.
Carey’s firm filed the lawsuit on Jan. 30, 2004, in Maricopa County, AZ, where Swift is based. The Maricopa County Superior Court initially denied class-action status for the drivers, but after years of going back and forth through the courts, the state’s high court action affirms the class and paves the way for a trial.
“The effect is we end up with a class certification in place that they (Swift) can’t touch now,” Carey said.
The plaintiff class includes drivers, contractors or owner-operators that have worked for Swift at any time since Jan. 30, 1998.
“All of those people up until today and in the future would be included if the same practice is occurring,” Carey said. “Because of the changes in some of the proportions of legacy contracts versus new contracts and owner-operator contracts, it’s important that people who have objective information about what their promises were or the practices, or copies of their contracts, should contact us.”
Drivers or former drivers can contact the Hagens Berman law firm by emailing Swift@hbsslaw.com or by calling 602-840-5900. More information is available at hbsslaw.com/swift_transportation_lawsuit.
Carey said the lawsuit could affect more than 10,000 people. He anticipates the discovery period could last eight or nine months leading up to trial.
“We’re essentially at the very front end of the case,” Carey said.
Carey says his firm could take up additional legal challenges against large motor carriers on the issue of driver compensation.
“We’re looking at other carriers, by the way. It’s not just Swift,” he said.
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