Court approves $19M settlement in C.R. England training school lawsuit
November 23, 2020
A federal court has granted final approval of a settlement between C.R. England and thousands of former training school students, effectively putting an end to a case that lasted more than four years.
On Nov. 20, a Utah federal district court gave C.R. England and nearly 13,000 drivers who attended its training school the green light to proceed with a settlement agreement. Worth nearly $19 million, $3.6 million is allocated for cash settlement payouts and another $15 million for debt forgiveness. The court calculates that the average recovery to each member will be around $1,300 after all approved costs and awards are deducted.
The approval comes despite an objection from one party.
In August, Marty Cook, a former trucker for C.R. England, filed an objection to the proposed class action settlement.
Cook claims the settlement was “hastily negotiated” with the case not even getting to the court. No discovery or vetting of the legal claims was done, Cook said.
Cook also said the settlement “has an irrational and inequitable” way of distributing funds to class members. He claims the terms leave some former C.R. England truckers in a worse situation than they would be in without the settlement. Cooks claims a verdict should be valued between $900 million and exceeding $1 billion.
In the approval order, the court overruled Cook’s objections.
“Objector Cook’s objection raises certain debatable possibilities, but he fails to show an inadequate evaluation by plaintiffs and class counsel, or surprise that could harm the class,” the court stated. “In light of the risks, delay, and costs associated with continued litigation, the settlement is not just adequate; it is well suited in the court’s view and provides substantial immediate benefits to the entire class.”
The settlement approval ends the case that was originally filed in a federal court in May 2016.
Allegations against Premier Truck Driving School
According to the complaint, C.R. England failed to pay for rest breaks and all hours worked under California state law, which is defined as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” Drivers also were deprived of the required 30-minute meal period.
The lawsuit also accuses the company of inducing applicants to relocate to Fontana, Calif., and other locations to attend its Premier Truck Driving School. According to the lawsuit, C.R. England told applicants that by attending Premier they would get a “guaranteed job” as a well-paid, full-time truck driver. Premier costs thousands of dollars for the 17-day program.
Once hired, C.R. England required drivers to enter into an agreement that would force them to pay the company $2,500 for leaving. The megacarrier also required drivers to agree to pay back Premier expenses. However, the promissory note did not include the annual percentage rate and finance charge. Allegedly, drivers were charged 18% interest, which was compounded daily. This rate exceeds California’s maximum rate allowed, which is 10% per annum. The promissory note also falsely indicated that the debt would be satisfied if the drivers were able to complete the term of their employment.
The lawsuit accused C.R. England of churning out more students than it could employ.
Consequently, a revolving door was created that led to drivers from the training school being fired within a year to make room for the new batch of drivers.
Drivers also accused the company of having them sign “a series of unconscionable legal documents, which they had little or no opportunity to read or comprehend.” In addition to the promissory note and $2,500 fine for leaving the company, drivers also signed an illegal agreement that prohibited them from working for anyone else for at least nine months. LL