Photo: Evan Lockridge
A little more than half a dozen lawsuits alleging fuel rebate fraud still pending against the truckstop chain Pilot Flying J may be consolidated as soon as next month.
A hearing is set for March 27 in U.S. District Court in San Diego, Calif., when oral arguments will be presented by both sides, according to published reports. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued a decision granting the oral arguments on Feb. 21.
Last year, Pilot Flying J reached a $85 million dollar class action settlement with trucking companies that claimed rebates they were owed from fuel purchases were withheld in order to bolster Pilot Flying J profits. However, some decided to opt out of the settlement. Pilot Flying J and CEO Jimmy Haslam have denied any wrongdoing.
The lawsuits followed last April's raid of Pilot Flying J’s Knoxville-headquarters as part of a federal investigation. So far 10 people have pleaded guilty for their roles, but none have been sentenced. Several reports indicate they are cooperating with investigators and other indictments are possible.
Pilot Flying J reportedly will argue the remaining cases be consolidated and transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville. Its attorneys say this should be done because the company is based in Knoxville, the majority of documents are located in Knoxville, and six of the named defendants in the lawsuits "live in or around" Knoxville.
Three of the trucking companies are based in Alabama (Shoreline Transportation, Osborne Transportation and Wright Transportation), while National Retail Transportation and Mario's Express Service are based in New Jersey. Triple D Supply is based in New Mexico while FST Express is headquartered in Ohio.
Five other lawsuits against Pilot Flying J also remain, but are not part of this possible consolidation. These cases are pending in state courts in Tennessee and South Carolina.
Pilot Flying J is the largest truckstop operator in North America with more than 650 locations under the Pilot and Flying J brands.