Former C.R. England trucker balks at proposed $19M settlement
September 17, 2020
More than six months after C.R. England reached a settlement agreement with former training school students, one trucker is objecting to the settlement, calling it “paltry” and statements within “misleading and demonstrably false.”
On Aug. 31, Marty Cook, a former trucker for C.R. England, filed an objection to the proposed class action settlement between C.R. England and nearly 13,000 trucker trainees who enrolled in the company’s Premier Truck Driving School. On Feb. 24, the two parties filed a motion for preliminary approval of a nearly $19 million settlement, including $3.6 million for a cash settlement payout and $15 million for debt forgiveness.
The lawsuit, filed in May 2016, accuses C.R. England of luring about 12,600 trucker trainees into its for-profit training school with the false hope of employment upon completion.
In his objection, Cook claimed 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.
This is the third attempt of a settlement in the case. According to the objection, the first attempt occurred when the case was in California state court. That settlement was terminated when the case moved to federal court. A second attempt was denied by a federal appeals court due to “lack of rigor,” Cook said. Cook claims this third attempt of a settlement is worse than the first or second.
“Indeed, the per-person settlement value of the current version of the settlement is just a little over half the per-person settlement value of the two previous versions that were not approved,” Cook said. “In the meantime, the current version offers (C.R. England) a release that covers 6,000 more class members than the previous versions – a sweetheart deal, to say the least.”
After attorneys take their cut, the cash recovery amount will be less than $2 million, the objection stated. Cook acknowledged this is a $400,000 increase from previous versions but the number of class members also increased by 6,400. Consequently, the individual value is less.
The settlement states that the average recovery for each class member will be “roughly the same” of a similar case where class members received an average of $273. This misrepresents the actual average recovery in this case, which amounts to about $156 per class member, Cook claims.
Cook also raised questions about hours worked not being calculated.
“To add to the confusion, the motion for approval does not even provide information on the number of workweeks that the class members worked, perhaps because the plaintiffs negotiated the settlement without first obtaining discovery to determine and verify this information,” the objection states. “Yet, the number of workweeks covered by the settlement payments is a critical component to measuring settlement value. Still, that data point is conspicuously absent here.”
According to Cook, even if the court were to use a lower estimate of the number of workweeks per person, the cash recovery would be a 99% discount on the verdict value of the lawsuit’s claims. Cooks said the verdict value is in the hundreds of millions. Although settlements require compromise, Cook said, a 99% discount is not “fair, reasonable or adequate.”