Major Court Decision Against Three 'Hot Fuel' Claims
July 23, 2013
Late last week a federal judge in California ruled to dismiss three cases against Chevron filed by plaintiffs who claimed the oil and fuel giant failed to disclose the effect warmer temperatures have when it comes to dispensing fuel at the pumps causing customers to overpay.
The judge, Kathryn H. Vratil, determined California law has no such requirements.
"Plaintiffs are in the difficult position of arguing that California law does not authorize the manner in which Chevron sells motor fuel in California (which is the same way every motor fuel retailer has sold motor fuel throughout the United States for more than a century). Plaintiffs' arguments are ultimately unconvincing."
The rulings stem from the consolidation in Kansas City of several “hot fuel” lawsuits filed around the country following a series of stories by the Kansas City Star newspaper several years ago demonstrating consumers of both gasoline and diesel were getting less energy in a gallon of fuel when its warmer, due to the expansion of the liquid.
The case, along with others, were returned from Kansas City federal court following pretrial proceedings, back to the states, where there are now being heard in court.
The ruling is the second major blow in this series of cases. Last September a jury in Kansas City turned back class action claims against fuel retailers bilking customers. Some retailers and other big oil companies earlier agreed to settle claims by installing devices on fuel pumps to compensate for temperatures when fuel is dispensed.
It’s believed this most recent ruling could affect the outcome in other cases around the country, as well as other cases still pending in the Golden State.
Proponents of doing something about “hot fuel” claim temperature is taken into account in every other part of fuel supply chain, except at the retail level. They note the standard temperature measurement is 60 degrees, but when the fuel is warmer it expands, resulting in less than a “true gallon” of fuel. Conversely, and argued by some oil companies and fuel retailers, it is also sold below that temperature at times, and any change in temperature in negligible.
Proponents note fuel temperature compensation devices are on pumps on Hawaii, due to its naturally warm climate, where fuel is sold warmer, as well as in Canada which it is generally cooler and it’s advantageous to both oil companies and fuel retailers to have temperature compensation devices on fuel pumps.
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