Paying the piper
OOIDA goes to incredible lengths to collect cash owed truckers – including seizing personal assets
Monday, Dec. 14, 2009 – “There has to be a price to pay.”
That’s what OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston said recently about the Association’s latest attempt to collect what truckers are owed from Ledar Transport, a Kansas City, MO-based motor carrier.
Typically, making someone “pay the price” would involve taking money from the motor carrier.
However, in the case of Ledar, the association has gone much further – seizing, with the court’s permission, items such as a lawnmower, stereo equipment, televisions, tools and video games – essentially, the personal possessions of the people who own that carrier, taken right out of their home.
It’s been a long road to that point. The Ledar case has been around for more than a decade now – even though at first, it looked as if it would be over quickly.
A little history
OOIDA first went after Ledar Transport in March of 1996. The Association contended that Ledar had committed multiple violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Leasing Regulations. That same year, the judge in the case, Fernando J. Gaitan Jr., ordered the company to return escrow funds to truckers.
By 2000, OOIDA had filed a second court action against the carrier on behalf of a larger group of Ledar truckers, alleging more leasing rule violations – including the rules’ escrow requirements.
Apparently, the judge in the case agreed.
In November of that year, Judge Gaitan issued a preliminary injunction against Ledar. Under the injunction, Ledar could not haul any freight in trucks it didn’t own unless it fixed its leases so they complied with the leasing rules.
In 2001, OOIDA took the case another step. At that point, the suit was not only against the carrier. It named the principal owners – Carl E. Higgs, Alice Norma Higgs and Scott L. Higgs – as defendants as well.
Finally, the second suit against Ledar ended the same way as the first. On Dec. 30, 2004, the judge ruled in favor of OOIDA and the truckers.
Damages in both cases were determined, and OOIDA moved forward to collect the money owed the truckers, along with other expenses – just under $1 million in damages in the second Ledar case.
And that – according to Belinda Harrison, an attorney working with OOIDA – is where the trouble began.
“It’s been incredibly difficult to collect the money owed in this case for a number of reasons,” she said.
The three principal owners of Ledar – Norma, Carl and Scott Higgs – avoided paying the judgment that OOIDA had won in court. They refused to tell the court where their assets were, and even refused to say what assets they had.
The court issued an order on OOIDA’s behalf requiring them to disclose their assets. One of the respondents pleaded the Fifth Amendment.
That series of events led to Dec. 2, 2008.
On that date, OOIDA officials, sheriff’s officers and a series of tow trucks arrived at Ledar headquarters. The group left with two tractors, a utility vehicle and one of the owner’s personal pickup trucks – all taken to help pay the judgment awarded to the truckers in the case.
Of course, that didn’t come near paying the full amount owed. And that is where we come to Oct. 19, 2009.
It sounded like a Christmas wish list
On that date, again with the judge’s permission, a similar group went not to Ledar’s offices, but to the homes of some of the principal owners. At most locations, nothing of value was found.
But at Scott Higgs’ home, OOIDA officials, the sheriff, the process servers and others did find what they were looking for – property that could be used to pay the truckers back.
But not company assets, or even the owners’ personal vehicles. This time, the seizure was much more thorough.
A personal flat-bed trailer, a chainsaw, a John Deere riding lawnmower, golf clubs, a dining table with c