A recent Law 360 story by Danielle Nicole Smith, “Truckers’ Attys Want $16M Cut of $100M CR England Deal,” reports that attorneys for a class of drivers allegedly tricked into giving trucking company C.R. England free labor want a federal judge to award them $15.8 million for their work securing a settlement worth about $100 million in cash and debt relief. The plaintiffs' attorneys — from Kravit Hovel & Krawczyk SC, Anderson & Karrenberg PC, Harper Law PLC, Wilentz Goldman & Spitzer PA and the Law Offices of Robert S. Boulter — said in their motion that they had been working on the case for eight years and put in more than 25,000 hours.
Under the settlement, which still requires final court approval, class members will each receive at least $1,000 from a pool of about $40 million and benefit from roughly $61 million in debt relief and credit repair, according to their lawyers. U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby granted the agreement preliminary approval in January. “Together, this bundle of monetary and non-monetary benefits comprise a settlement of significant value to the class that is the direct result of class counsel’s expertise and steadfast commitment to the case since 2011,” the attorneys said.
The settlement calls for C.R. England to forgive $48 million of disputed, unpaid debts for certain drivers including those related to permits, licenses and truck leases and to inform credit reporting agencies that the debts have been canceled. The trucking company also agreed as part of the settlement not to attempt to collect on $13 million in debt for student tuition.
The attorneys argued that the debt relief should be factored into the total settlement amount for the purposes of determining the reasonableness of their fee request. Thus, their request for roughly $15.8 million in fees was only about 16 percent of the settlement’s $98.8 million value, a figure well within the reasonable range, the attorneys said.
The drivers had alleged in the suit that they were recruited for a training program by C.R. England under the guise of then having a “guaranteed job.” However, at the end of the program, they were pushed into purchasing the so-called Driving Opportunity, which required them to pay the company for training tuition, truck rental and gas, among other things, leaving with them with little compensation or even in debt, the drivers alleged. C.R. England denied the drivers’ claims throughout the suit as well as in the settlement agreement. The settlement does not contain an admission of wrongdoing or liability.