Pilot Flying J amends settlement to expand timeline

Pilot Flying J amends settlement to expand timeline to 2005


6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Attorneys for Pilot Flying J and the eight plaintiffs that have joined a settlement agreement with the diesel giant were granted a motion to amend the settlement, changing the timeline of the agreement.

Judge James Moody gave preliminary approval of the amendment Wednesday.

Jan. 1, 2005 is now the start date for the settlement class instead of Jan. 1, 2008, meaning payments can be made for unpaid or underpaid rebates made in an eight-year time span, as opposed to the original agreement of five years.

An attorney for Ohio Auto Delivery Inc., a company against the settlement, told 6 News the amendment shows that the initial settlement was rushed and said he believes further investigation could show even more extensive damage.

"That confirms what we've been saying. The preliminarily-approved settlement happened so quickly that there's a risk it's a 'sweetheart deal' for Pilot," Charles Cooper said. 

But attorneys for the plaintiffs in the settlement said they're pleased with the amendment.

The lead attorney for the trucking companies in the settlement with Pilot Flying J said the amendment offers another benefit for the plaintiffs.

"There is a real benefit to the Pilot customers in the class in having that extra three years fully audited, so that everybody can know for sure that they are getting 100% of what they are owed, plus interest," Don Barrett said.

A spokesperson for Pilot Flying J said the settlement is in the best interest of its customers.

"The date was changed at the suggestion of some of the parties involved," spokesperson Tom Ingram said. "Consistent with the company's ongoing commitment to get to the bottom of this and do what's right, we agreed to change the date."

The settlement stems from accusations Pilot Flying J was not properly paying rebates owed to diesel fuel customers, but was instead hiding or falsifying information to cover what the customers were owed.

FBI and IRS investigators raided Pilot Flying J's West Knoxville headquarters on April 15 after tipsters provided information about alleged cheating.

Pilot Flying J is owned by the Haslam family, which includes Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

Other Options for Trucking Companies

Lincoln Memorial University Assistant Law Professor Matthew Lyon told 6 News that while a class action settlement can be beneficial for the parties involved, there are other options for those who don't want to settle.

"There are some causes of action, for instance under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act you get travel damages so if its found that the company acted willfully or egregiously, the amount of damages could be tripled or you could see a punitive damages award," Lyon said.

An attorney for the Knox County based lawsuit against Pilot Flying J, Drew McElroy, told 6 News the four trucking companies in the lawsuit have no plans to join the settlement as it's written now.

Ohio Auto Delivery Inc. and several other companies have also declined joining the settlement.

Pilot Settlement Website

Pilot Flying J has posted a website laying out the details of the settlement.

It includes court documents connected with the settlement and how various actions would affect possibly plaintiffs.



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