SPECIAL REPORT: Truckers’ case ‘coming in well’ against C.R. England

| 10/23/2006

Oct. 23, 2006 - The legal team representing about 6,000 truckers in a lawsuit against C.R. England is more than halfway through the presentation of its case in federal court in Salt Lake City.

"I think our case is coming in well," David A. Cohen, lead attorney on the case for the truckers and OOIDA, said Saturday, Oct. 21. "We have demonstrated C.R. England has failed to comply with the federal truth-in-leasing regulations."

Specifically, the truckers' case contends that the motor carrier made millions in illegal profits by failing to disclose markups and chargebacks that it deducted from truckers' settlement sheets.

Monday, Oct. 23, Cohen and attorney Randall S. Herrick-Stare of The Cullen Law Firm, were scheduled to conclude the presentation of expert testimony with Michael Pakter, a certified public accountant from Chicago who is also a certified fraud examiner.

Pakter's testimony began last week, after three truckers and three employees of C.R. England testified. Cohen said that the truckers' case would likely include two more witnesses after Pakter's testimony concludes.

Then, C.R. England is expected to call four witnesses before the trial wraps up late this week.

U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart will then take the case under advisement. There is no jury because the truckers' legal team opted for a bench trial after Stewart issued favorable rulings in pretrial orders Oct. 3.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed the case, along with a handful of truckers, seeking to have it declared a class action to include any owners or operators who signed lease agreements with C.R. England beginning in August 1998 and continuing through the end of the trial.

Judge Stewart approved the class-action status Aug. 29, 2005. Cohen said that the roughly 6,000 members of the class are seeking the return of "several million dollars" total in what they contend are illegal profits that C.R. England made from undisclosed chargebacks and markups.

According to the motor carrier's Web site, C. R. England currently has more than 3,800 drivers and independent contractors hauling freight.

Truckers testified last week that tires and other parts were marked up 30 percent by the motor carrier. The truckers contend the carrier also failed to disclose information about fuel discounts.

"In the case of C.R. England, they profited to the tune of millions of dollars by their fuel chargeback practices in which they retained 60 percent of the discounts that were generated by owner-operator fuel purchases," Cohen said.

"What we will seek at the conclusion of the trial is for the court to order what's called 'disgorgement' to force them to return these illegal profits. The court agreed with the association's position that it had the power to do that. C.R. England denied vigorously that the court even had the power to require them to return illegal profits. The court disagreed (with that)."

- By Coral Beach. staff editor