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School bus drivers can’t sue school corporation for collusion

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The lawsuit for collusion brought by 13 North Gibson School Corporation bus drivers against the school corporation as a result of bids for a transportation services contract failed on interlocutory appeal before the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Bus Corp. was awarded two contracts with the school corporation, which would cover bus transportation from 2011 to 2015.  The school corporation then scheduled “negotiation sessions” with individual drivers who wanted to renew or acquire a contract for their respective routes. Thirteen of the drivers sued the school corporation based on how the negotiation sessions were carried out – using a “reverse auction” process. The drivers were presented with a contract at a reduced price resulting from the “reverse auction” and told by the school corporation’s representative that if the contracts at the stated daily rates weren’t executed by a certain date, the school corporation would award the contract to the next lowest bidder – Bus Corp.

The drivers alleged collusion in their suit and sought compensatory damages under the Indiana Antitrust Act. The school corporation tried to have the suit dismissed, but the trial judge denied the motion.

On interlocutory appeal, the COA reversed. The drivers, as unsuccessful bidders, don’t have a private right of action against the school corporation, even if they allege collusion, wrote Chief Judge Margret Robb. The school corporation also can’t be held liable for damages under the Indiana Antitrust Act. The appellate court cited Brownsburg Cmty. Sch. Corp. v. Natare Corp., 824 N.E.2d 336 (Ind. 2005), reading that decision to mean that governmental entities can’t be liable for actions prohibited by the Indiana Antitrust Act. That Act provides a cause of action for unsuccessful bidders against other bidders.

Robb pointed out that a suit against Bus Corp. may have been a better strategy. The drivers have no remedy against the school corporation.

The judges ordered the trial court to enter an order consistent with the appellate opinion.

 

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