Report: J.B. Hunt wants court to rule on driver contracts

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J.B. Hunt reportedly is asking a judge to decide if it can hire drivers who signed contracts with another carrier. A federal declaration would keep the carrier from fighting similar lawsuits across the country, according to documents recently filed in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Ark.

The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas reported that Fayetteville attorney Jennifer B. Hendren, representing J.B. Hunt, filed a lawsuit in October to stop Stevens Transport from making contract interference claims. The suit contends Dallas-based Stevens refused to release employment information or copies of driver contracts to J.B. Hunt, according to The News. Stevens Transport on Nov. 9 filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit because it believes the federal court does not have jurisdiction.

Stevens alleged in February 2004 and September 2005 letters to J.B. Hunt that the Lowell, Ark.-based firm had hired student drivers who had signed one-year contracts with Stevens, The News reported: J.B. Hunt officials in court documents have denied claims that they interfered with contracts between Stevens and its drivers.

According to The News, J.B. Hunt argues in court filings that even if it hired Stevens’ drivers, the contract interference is “justified by competition” because “trucking companies all face annual rates of driver turnover in excess of 100 percent.” J.B. Hunt wants a federal judge to decide the issue of hiring drivers under contract to other firms “to avoid incurring significant expense, effort and attorneys’ fees defending duplicate, repetitious litigation across the country,” the newspaper reported. J.B. Hunt also seeks awards of unspecified damages and a jury trial.