Wal-Mart seeks to overturn $54 million trucker wage verdict

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 4/10/2017

Wal-Mart argued April 7 in the U.S. Court for the Northern District of California that a $54 million verdict against the company should be overturned. In November 2016, a federal jury ruled that Wal-Mart failed to pay hundreds of its truck drivers at least minimum wage for pre- and post-trip inspections, 10-minute rest breaks and 10-hour layovers.

Attorneys for Wal-Mart contended that there wasn’t a legally sufficient basis for the jury’s verdict. Specifically, Wal-Mart said the jury used the calculations of Dr. G. Michael Phillips even though Phillips said he did not “have any opinion about whether any class members performed any activities for which they were not compensated.”

“The most striking example underscores the conflict: Three named Plaintiffs testified they did not take rest breaks, yet the jury awarded them the exact amount of allegedly unpaid wages for rest breaks that Plaintiffs’ economist, Dr. Phillips, said they should get,” Wal-Mart wrote in support of its motion on March 15. “And while the rest break evidence is particularly egregious, the same problem plagues Dr. Phillips’ calculations of layover and pre- and post-trip inspection damages. For this verdict to stand, the Court must ignore this sworn testimony concerning these drivers’ individual experiences, and instead accept Dr. Phillips’ speculation as true.”

Wal-Mart also argued that it shouldn’t be required to pay for layovers, because the drivers weren’t required to remain in their trucks. The company cited several references to drivers eating, shopping or watching TV during their layover.

“Wal-Mart maintains that judgment should be entered in its favor, because the undisputed evidence shows that drivers earned more than the minimum wage in each hour worked,” attorneys for the company wrote.

Wal-Mart’s truck drivers are paid by the mile and not by the hour. Spokesperson Randy Hargrove previously said that its company’s drivers earn from approximately $80,000 to more than $100,000 per year.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2008. Attorneys for the more than 800 drivers in the class were seeking $72 million in damages.

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