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Hot Fuel Cases Reach Cold Conclusion

February 11, 2014

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A case that began in 2006 over claims that diesel and gasoline retailers were cheating customers out of money has apparently come to an end. Plaintiffs' lawyers in "hot fuel” litigation have voluntarily dismissed the remaining cases against defendants in Kansas City, Kan., according to published reports. 

The 15 defendants include: 7-Eleven, Circle K Stores, Mac's Convenience Stores, Kum & Go, Marathon Petroleum, Murphy USA, Pilot Travel Centers, Flying J, PTCAA Texas, QuikTrip, RaceTrac Petroleum, Sheetz, Speedway, The Pantry and Wawa.

Truckers and consumer groups were among those that filed more than four dozen lawsuits against some of the nation’s largest oil companies and retailers, as well as locally owned ones. Among those in trucking saying the issue was a problem were the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association and its OOIDA Foundation. Legislation was also introduced in Congress more than once to deal with the issue. 

Plaintiffs claimed that as a liquid, gasoline expands and contracts depending on temperature. The volume of the fuel is pegged to a 60-degree standard, at which the 231-cubic-inch American gallon puts out a certain amount of energy. If the temperature of that gasoline rises to 90 degrees, it expands to more than 235 cubic inches, but at the pump, consumers still get only 231 cubic inches. In other words, every degree over the 60-degree standard diminishes the energy a 231-cubic-inch gallon delivers.

Similar expansion happens with diesel but it is reportedly less than gasoline.

The issue came to light following a series of stories by the Kansas City Star newspaper in 2006, showing the practice of selling fuel when it's warmer cost consumers between $2.3 billion and $3.5 billon per year. 

Many of the cases filed in various states were consolidated in federal court. Some were settled with retailers agreeing to install temperature compensation devices on fuel pumps, with others agreeing to do so only when required to by law. Other cases were thrown out of court and at least one case saw a verdict in favor of the defense.

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