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Celadon Trucking Services, Inc. v. Wilmoth

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 7, 2017

Celadon Trucking Services, Inc., Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Charles Wilmoth and Kent Vassey, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Appellees-Plaintiffs.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 49D07-1310-PL-36806 The Honorable Michael D. Keele, Judge

          Attorneys for Appellant Gregory M. Feary Braden K. Core Christopher J. Eckhart E. Ashley Paynter Scopelitis Garvin Light Hanson & Feary, P.C. Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellees Irwin B. Levin Richard E. Shevitz Vess A. Miller Lynn A. Toops Cohen & Malad, LLP Indianapolis, Indiana

          Barnes, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Celadon Trucking Services, Inc. ("Celadon") appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of Charles Wilmoth, Kent Vassey, and a class of similarly-situated individuals ("the Class") in the amount of $3, 302, 923.60 plus pre- and post-judgment interest. We affirm.

         Issues

         [¶2] The restated issues before us are:

I. whether the trial court properly denied Celadon's motion for judgment on the pleadings; and
II. whether the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the Class members on their claim that Celadon overcharged them for fuel purchases they made using a Celadon-issued debit card.

         Facts

         [¶3] Celadon is a nationwide transportation company headquartered in Indianapolis that provides trucking services to its customers. Celadon both directly employs company drivers, who drive company-owned trucks, and independent contractors, who drive their own trucks. The Class members are independent contractor-truck owners-drivers. Employee drivers are not responsible for expenses, such as fuel, incurred during the course of employment and must refuel at locations Celadon designates. Independent contractors, such as the Class members, are responsible for such expenses, including fuel costs, but are paid significantly more per mile than employee drivers.[1]

         [¶4] To pay for fuel while on a job, employee drivers were given a "Comdata" card, which functions like a consumer credit or debit card. App. p. 33. Additionally, Celadon required its employee drivers to refuel at Pilot Flying J truck stops whenever possible, in return for Pilot Flying J offering a substantial fuel cost discount to Celadon. Whenever a Comdata card was swiped at a Pilot Flying J fuel pump, the displayed price per gallon automatically would be reduced from the posted "credit" price to the "cash" price, which typically is about six cents per gallon less than the "credit" price. However, Celadon actually paid Pilot Flying J less than the displayed "cash" price for transactions using the Comdata card. The discounted price Pilot Flying J charged Celadon generally was equivalent to Pilot Flying J's cost minus eight cents per gallon.[2] Pilot Flying J would send separate invoices to Celadon for fuel purchases made using Comdata cards, which Celadon then paid at the discounted price.

         [¶5] Celadon also provided Comdata cards to its independent contractors. When an independent contractor would use a Comdata card at a Pilot Flying J, as with employee drivers, the displayed price per gallon was reduced from the "credit" to the "cash" price. Celadon then would deduct the amount of Comdata fuel purchases from an independent contractor's total compensation before paying them, using a calculation based on the fuel's "cash" pump price. This amount also was reflected on fuel receipts from Pilot Flying J to the drivers.[3] However, as with employees, Celadon actually paid Pilot Flying J much less than the "cash" price for these Comdata purchases. Celadon paid Pilot Flying J the same discounted cost-less-eight-cents per gallon, and Celadon retained the difference when deducting the higher pump price from an independent contractor's compensation. Additionally, independent contractors could choose to use the Comdata card at locations other than Pilot Flying J, though Celadon imposed a higher fee for doing so- $7.50 versus $3.00 per transaction-thus making it financially more attractive for the drivers to refuel at Pilot Flying Js.

         [¶6] The standard contract between Celadon and the Class members contained the following provision regarding compensation:

5.05 Charges to Contractor. Contractor agrees that Contractor's compensation for services hereunder may be withheld by Carrier [Celadon] for payment of, and Carrier may set off against Contractor's compensation for:
a) All charges and deductions authorized by Contractor under this Agreement including, but not limited to, charges, deductions and liabilities referred to in the following sections hereof: 2.04, 3.02, 3.03, 4.01, 4.02, 4.04, 5.03, 6.02, 8.01, 8.02, 8.03, 8.05, 8.06, 9.01, 9.03, 9.04, 10.01, 10.04 and 12.01;[4] or in the Schedule of Compensation, or the option insurance program.
b) Any other charges or expenses incurred or paid by Carrier on ...

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