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Court certifies driver pay lawsuit against Swift as class action

A superior court judge has ruled that a lawsuit accusing Phoenix-based Swift Transportation of routinely shorting its drivers in pay will move forward as a class action, a Seattle-based law firm announced Friday, Nov. 5.

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro – which represents whistleblowers, investors and consumers – says the case claims that rather than paying drivers on actual miles driven, Swift Transportation calculates mileage using a software program that, on average, underpays drivers by 7 percent to 10 percent. The lawsuit alleges breach of contract for not paying the correct amount and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing based on the truckload giant’s adoption of a system that underpays drivers.

Hagens Berman says Maricopa County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Gama ruled late Thursday, Nov. 5, that the class for the case against Swift Transportation encompasses “all persons in the United States, including those who were employed by Swift as employee drivers on or after Jan. 30, 1998, or contracted with Swift as owner-operator drivers on or after Jan. 30, 1998, who were compensated by Swift by reference to miles driven.”

Hagens Berman says the court also certified a subclass defined as “all persons who contracted with Swift Transportation with a Contractor Agreement East Coast” as of Dec. 14, 2001. In addition, the court certified lead plaintiff Leonel Garza to represent the class.

Hagens Berman says the lawsuit initially was filed against Swift Transportation in early 2004, but the motion to certify it as a class action initially was denied by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge. The judge’s decision was appealed by its plaintiffs’ attorneys, and the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision.

The appellate court’s decision to certify the suit against Swift Transportation as a class action, however, then was overturned by the Arizona Supreme Court on procedural grounds. The Arizona Supreme Court held that the appellate court lacked the jurisdiction to review the decision by the trial court not to certify the suit as a class action.

The case was sent back to the Maricopa County Superior Court, where attorneys for Garza and the class filed a renewed motion to have it certified as a class action, which the court granted Thursday, Nov. 5.

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