Deadline nears for class action lawsuit

by James Menzies

SUMMERLAND, B.C. – A class action lawsuit against the federal government over meal allowances for truckers is already in the works, but the deadline for joining has been extended to give interested truckers one last chance to sign up.

Due to an overwhelming response from truck drivers across the country, the law firm representing the truckers – Johnston, Johnson and Co. – has extended the deadline. More than 1,000 truckers have already signed up, about 700 more than when Truck News first wrote about the impending lawsuit five months ago. Tom Johnston, the lawyer representing truck drivers in the lawsuit, initially sought 500 members. However, it’s a good thing that number has more than doubled, as the case has taken on a more complex nature.

“We drafted a statement of claim and the view was that if we go into the (Income) Tax Act we’ll get eaten alive,” says Johnston. “We had thought that the fairness provisions in the Income Tax Act actually meant something but apparently they haven’t been interpreted to mean much more than they could take a second look at it.”

That meant it was necessary to re-evaluate the case and determine what the best approach would be. Johnston enlisted the help of several other legal experts – a class action specialist and a tax specialist – and the general consensus was that the case would have a better chance if it was pursued from a constitutional angle.

“It’s just blatant discrimination,” says Johnston. “We’re retooling the legal action to make it a pure constitutional argument.”

News of the lawsuit recently hit the mainstream media, with CBC running a national article about the case. The result has been another avalanche of truckers who have sent in their $100 cheques in order to be added to the growing list of truckers taking part. In class action lawsuits only those who take part are eligible for any money rewarded by the court, so with the previous deadline fast approaching, Johnston consulted the team of representatives already in place and they agreed to extend the deadline.

“We went back to the representative plaintiffs and they said ‘You can’t be unfair to these people who just heard about it, you’ve got to let them in,'” says Johnston.

Now the last opportunity to sign up for the lawsuit is Oct. 31, with the first court appearance to follow shortly thereafter.

Currently, truckers are only allowed to claim 50 per cent of $33 per day for meals. That’s well under the $61.50 government employees are allowed to claim. It is estimated truckers who have been jilted by the current rules for 10 years or more could get up to $40,000 back if the lawsuit is successful.

While Johnston is well aware Canada Customs and Revenue Agency is already preparing a team of lawyers to fight the lawsuit, he says a victory for truckers would be a victory for everyone. He says the majority of money that goes back into the pockets of truckers will ultimately be spent in Canada.

“The government would recapture that money by the increased spending and in the long run the government wouldn’t lose anything,” says Johnston.

Anyone interested in joining the lawsuit should visit or call 800-494-0442 before Oct. 31.

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