Photo: Evan Lockridge

Photo: Evan Lockridge

Seven lawsuits alleging truckstop operator Pilot Flying J cheated customers out of rebates from diesel fuel purchased have been consolidated into one.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in San Diego has designated the Eastern District of Kentucky in Lexington as the central venue. Pilot Flying J was seeking to have the cases consolidated in the Eastern District of Tennessee, close to where it is based.

The seven cases were spread over six separate federal court districts and are only part of more than a dozen lawsuits those that remain against the company, following Pilot Flying J reaching an $85 million settlement with thousands of customers late last year who claimed they were cheated out of money as the company tried to inflate its profits. These litigants opted out of the settlement for various reasons. Other companies also opted out of the settlement and there is an expectation lawsuits from at least some have still yet to be filed.

The seven plaintiffs include: Shoreline Transportation, Osborn Transportation, Wright Transportation, National Retail Transportation, Mario’s Express Service, Triple D Supply and FST Express. Some argued against consolidating the cases while others were opposed to moving it to Tennessee.

“We find that these seven actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the Eastern District of Kentucky will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation,” said the judicial panel. “The subject actions share factual issues arising out of allegations that defendants engaged in a fraudulent scheme of withholding diesel fuel price rebates or discounts that Pilot agreed by contract to apply to the diesel fuel purchases of its commercial trucking customers."

The ruling comes following a federal raid by FBI and IRS agents on Pilot Flying J’s Knoxville headquarters nearly a year ago as part of a criminal investigation. So far about 10 current or former employees have pleaded guilt for their roles, but have yet to be sentenced. Pilot Flying J and CEO Jimmy Haslam continue to maintain the company did nothing wrong while Haslam has said he had no knowledge of the alleged scheme.