Shipping Company Sued for Losing Troops' Cars

The Personal Property directorate at Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command manages the Department of Defense's Privately Owned Vehicle shipping program.

A Georgia-based pair of law firms has filed a class-action lawsuit against a Defense Department shipping contractor alleging more than $5 million in damages to service members who have lost vehicles shipped to or from overseas locations.

The suit, which has six named participants, was filed late Aug. 21 against Defense Department contractor International Auto Logistics (IAL). Attorneys Nathan Williams of the Williams Litigation Law Group and Mark Tate of the Tate Law Group filed the suit in the U.S. District Court’s southern Georgia district, where IAL is based.

IAL took over the privately owned vehicle (POV) contract in early May, the beginning of peak moving season for military families. Since then, hundreds of service members have complained that their cars are far past their arrival due dates and cannot be located in IAL's shipment tracking system.

Williams declined to comment on specifics of the suit due to court rules, he said. However, publicly available documents filed with the court allege IAL was both negligent and breached their contract by not delivering vehicles on time or being able to tell vehicle owners where their cars are in the system.

A pair of Oklahoma-based attorneys had previously planned to file a class-action suit against IAL in Texas. However, that group is now instead forwarding potential participants to Williams and Tate.

Williams said service members who wish to be included in the class, if it is certified by the court, should visit a site started by the firms to share information about the case.

“What will happen is hopefully well have a number of people that contact us,” Williams said. He said about 30 potential participants have reached out on the issue so far.

Meanwhile, an email sent Aug. 19 from a top Army official revealed about 70 percent of the vehicles IAL has been tasked with shipping under the DoD contract are considered late.

The email, sent from Command Sgt. Maj. James Sims, Army Material Command's senior enlisted official, to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler, detailed the current status of an Army and U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM)-led effort to locate the vehicles.

"I want to provide you situational awareness regarding the significant delays we're currently experiencing in DoD POV shipments," the email stated. "The transfer from the previous contractor to the new contractor did not go well for a variety of reasons, and the new contractor is experiencing significant challenges in meeting the requirements of the contract, compounded by the sheer volume of POV processing, shipments, and claims. As a result of these POV shipping delays, there is significant public media attention, along with growing congressional interest as complaints are submitted by DoD personnel."

The email goes on to say that of the 27,358 vehicles IAL has accepted since starting the $1 billion, five-year contract, 14,154 vehicles are currently in transit with approximately 70 percent late in meeting the required delivery date; 7,987 vehicles have been delivered to service members; and 2,250 are awaiting customer pick-up. Additionally, there are still vehicles under the previous contract that had been placed in storage, and are required to be delivered by Aug. 23.

Sims said in addition to a set of search teams tasked by TRANSCOM and the Army's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) with visiting processing centers worldwide to locate missing vehicles, TRANSCOM has issued an official letter of concern to IAL.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@monster.com

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