‘O.C. Register’ Settles Carrier Lawsuit

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By: E&P Staff

A formal settlement could come as soon as Monday afternoon in the class action lawsuit against the Orange County Register that posed the always-thorny question of when a newspaper carrier is an employee or an independent contractor.

The Register lawsuit was further roiled by the judge admonishing and fining the newspaper for withholding and destroying evidence that might have supported the carriers’ contention that they were given specific delivery instructions and otherwise controlled as if they were employees. The judge, Orange County (Calif.) Superior Court Judge David C. Velasquez, also ruled that the Register could not cover the trial because of potential bias. That was overturned on appeal.

In a story by John Gittelsohn posted on its Web site, the Register quoted lawyers on both sides of the case as saying a settlement had been reached, and was expected to be approved by Velasquez in a hearing later Monday.

Terms of the settlement were not reported, but are certain to be far less than the $88 million demanded in the suit on behalf of 5,000 former and current newspaper carriers.

“It’s a great day for the carriers, because they have endured nearly six years of litigation,” the paper quoted lawyer Daniel J. Callahan, who filed the lawsuit in 2003, as saying. “It’s an excellent result, a just result.”

The Register said Tom Nolan, an attorney for the paper, also confirmed a settlement had been reached.

During the case, the Register argued that the carriers had signed contracts, typical in the newspaper industry, acknowledging they were independent carriers.

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