Hot fuel lawsuits filed in Kansas and Missouri courts

| 1/4/2007

Three more lawsuits have been filed against fuel retailers over the issue of "hot fuel."

Similar to recent lawsuits filed in federal courts in California and New Jersey, plaintiffs have come forward on behalf of consumers in Kansas and Missouri to try to put an end to retailers' practice of selling fuel warmer than 60 degrees - a national temperature standard created a century ago by regulators and the refineries.

Liquid fuel warmer than 60 degrees expands according to temperature, but retailers sell fuel by liquid volume. As a result, according to the plaintiffs, consumers are being ripped off on the amount of energy they pay for in a liquid gallon sold hotter than 60 degrees.

In Kansas, a group of four plaintiffs, including a carnival company and a trucking company, are seeking class-action status for a federal case against 20 fuel retailers and oil companies including Ampride, BP Corp. North America, Citgo Petroleum Corp., Valero Marketing and Supply Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc...

Robert Soetaert, OOIDA member and owner of Bob Soetaert Trucking of Shawnee, KS, and the other plaintiffs are seeking $5 million in the lawsuit filed Dec. 29, 2006, in U.S. District Court in Kansas.

The Missouri lawsuit, filed Dec. 30, 2006, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, was filed by an individual - James Vanderbilt - seeking class status against a similar but different list of defendant companies that includes Casey's General Stores and Sinclair Oil Corp.

The third lawsuit, also filed in Missouri, was filed by Victor VanDyne. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages for VanDyne and others who have paid state and federal fuel taxes on hot fuel - specifically gasoline - at eight fuel retailers including QuikTrip and Flying J.

Groups of plaintiffs - including owner-operators - filed lawsuits against similar lists of fuel retailers and oil companies Dec. 13, 2006, in federal court in California and Dec. 15, 2006, in federal court in New Jersey.

More lawsuits may be filed soon in other states where average retail fuel temperatures exceed 60 degrees, according to John Siebert, project leader with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents 147,000 professional truck drivers.

Although OOIDA is not part of the lawsuits, Siebert and a number of members of the Association have contributed to the research on hot fuel.

Retailers have said that, according to the oil industry's American Petroleum Institute, the cost to retrofit fuel pumps with equipment to compensate for temperature would be in the billions of dollars and would offset any benefit because those costs would be passed on to consumers.

Siebert claims the cost to retrofit all fuel pumps in the U.S. would cost about "five days' worth of profits" for the oil companies.

Fuel retailers have already retrofitted pumps in Canada where it was to their benefit because fuel temperatures there average cooler than 60 degrees.