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CRST, Swift Transportation continue legal battle over alleged truck driver poaching

Both CRST and Arizona-based Swift Transportation last week appealed recent court decisions in the case to the U.S. Court
Both CRST and Arizona-based Swift Transportation last week appealed recent court decisions in the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. (The Gazette)

A lawsuit CRST Expedited filed nearly two years ago, over competitor Swift Transportation’s alleged truck driver poaching, still is winding its way through the federal court system.

Both CRST and Arizona-based Swift Transportation last week appealed recent court decisions in the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.

In late July 2019, a federal jury awarded CRST $15.5 million, after the Cedar Rapids trucking company in March 2017 said Swift Transportation purposefully was recruiting and hiring former CRST drivers subject to 10-month noncompete agreements.

CRST’s award broke down into $3 million for interference with drivers’ contracts, $5 million in punitive damages and $7.5 million for unjust enrichment.

In December 2019, however, U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams granted Swift Transportation’s renewed judgment request for the unjust enrichment claim against it. If the original judgment were vacated or remanded on appeal, he said, Swift Transportation could be granted a new trial on that claim.

Williams also reduced the punitive damages against Swift Transportation to $3 million and wrote in his decision that there was “no basis” for the jury’s $7.5 million unjustment enrichment award, either.

CRST appealed the judge’s order on Jan. 13. The next day, Swift Transportation appealed both the order — which denied its renewed judgment and trial requests for an intentional contract interference claim — and the $15.5 million judgment against it.

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In earlier court documents, CRST said 246 drivers it paid to go through training so they could earn commercial driver’s licenses later were recruited by Swift Transportation, despite reportedly knowing they were under noncompete agreements.

The Arizona company pushed back, arguing that when it sent CRST employment verification requests for 31 drivers, it was not notified they were under such agreements.

Swift Transportation also said in court documents that in 2016 it started hiring from multiple trucking companies that used noncompete agreements based on “broader industry conditions,” rather than targeting CRST drivers specifically.

“The common practice of carriers hiring each other’s drivers benefits society, including drivers, whose employment relationships with carriers cannot be ignored,” Swift Transportation’s attorneys wrote.

“Drivers benefit by being free to find and work at jobs that pay well and give them a lifestyle that is best for them and their families.”

Court dockets in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals show a briefing schedule for CRST and Swift Transportation is slated to run through March 5.

Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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