Sunday, August 24 2014 12:56 AM EDT2014-08-24 04:56:42 GMT
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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Knox County judge ruled in favor of Pilot Flying J, denying a motion for an injunction that would have forced company employees to stop reaching out to clients in the wake of a diesel fuel rebate scandal.
Attorney Louis McElroy, one of several lawyers representing Pilot client Atlantic Coast Carriers, Inc., filed a motion for an injunction and/or a temporary restraining order last week.
The motion sought to keep Pilot employees from making deals with other clients because of the scandal.
On Wednesday, Tate claimed efforts to restore Pilot's reputation with the trucking industry were interfering with the case and influencing clients, which he said jeopardized his client's case against the company.
Attorneys were in court Monday to argue to a judge whether he should allow the injunction.
Robert Bartley Turner, who represents Atlantic Coast Carriers, presented statements first, saying "irreparable harm" had been done to the plaintiff.
"If witnesses are influenced either by intent or indirectly, then that has got to stop," Turner said.
Turner said that three other companies had joined the lawsuit with his client, but argued that Pilot officials were trying to influence witnesses through its contact with other clients, citing a change of heart by officials with trucking company W.N. Morehouse.
The attorney argued that the Morehouse brothers could be unwilling to make themselves available as witnesses in their case because of the deal they reached with Pilot.
Pilot Flying J attorney Albert Harb said the motion was, "based on newspaper accounts and nothing further," and asked the judge to dismiss the request.
Harb said that Pilot was doing "exactly what's permissible" by law and that there had been no harm done to witnesses in the case.
He argued that wanting Pilot to stop talking to customers was, "simply not an adequate basis for an injunction."
Turner disagreed, saying the injunction would only maintain the "status quo", meaning Pilot Flying J would continue to do business with customers as they had before the FBI raid and that the injunction would only stop them from making new deals.
He also clarified that the request for the injunction would prevent Pilot from reaching out to clients, but that clients who were interested in reaching a settlement could still contact the company.
Ultimately, Knox County Circuit Court Judge Harold Wimberly ruled in favor of Pilot Flying J, saying the media reports were "insufficient evidence" to approve the motion.
The company said through a spokesperson that it was pleased with the judge's decision and said were the motion to be approved, it, "would have crippled Pilot's ability to do business."
"There was absolutely no proof of any wrongdoing on the part of Pilot Flying J or its CEO, Jimmy Haslam," spokesman Tom Ingram said.
Three companies join lawsuit
Three trucking companies have signed on to the lawsuit with Atlantic Coast Carriers, including Golden Carriers, LLC, Blachowske Truck Line Inc. and Glazier Trucking Inc.
The attorney in that lawsuit, Mark Tate, said he anticipates a Tennessee-based trucking company to join the lawsuit, arguing that it filed for bankruptcy in part because of money lost in the alleged rebate scheme.
Tate said there are three trucking companies in Ohio also considering joining the lawsuit along with one in Kentucky.
Tate told 6 News two trucking companies that were planning to join the lawsuit backed out after being contacted by Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam.