J.F. Freight opts out of proposed settlement, joins another lawsuit against Pilot

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An Illinois-based trucking company has opted out of a proposed class action lawsuit against Pilot Flying J, joining a lawsuit filed by an Ohio trucking company, FST Express Inc.

In the amended complaint filed on Oct. 11, J.F. Freight Co. Inc., of Palatine, Ill., claims it did not receive money it was owed through Pilot’s fuel rebate program.

Both companies seek compensatory and punitive damages and have requested a jury trial.

This brings the number of trucking companies that have filed lawsuits in state and federal court to nearly 30.

Trucking companies had until Tuesday, Oct. 15, to opt out of the proposed class action settlement. A hearing is set for November in federal court in Arkansas, which seeks preliminary approval on a class action settlement where Pilot would pay back companies the money it owes, plus 6 percent interest.

According to court documents, J.F. Freight had an oral agreement in regard to its fuel discount with Pilot. In June 2013, Pilot President Mark Hazelwood visited J.F.’s headquarters to meet with J.F. Freight President Magdalena Fillman to discuss its “discount deals.”

“When Fillman explained to Hazelwood that there was an oral agreement between defendant (Pilot) and J.F., Hazelwood abruptly proclaimed that defendant (Pilot) could not help J.F. with respect to any discount discrepancies,” the complaint states.

In its suit, J.F. Freight states the company followed up with Pilot CEO James “Jimmy” Haslam III about a week later about the initial meeting with Hazelwood.

The company was then sent a check from Pilot for $12,215.57, “purportedly due to a discrepancy (Pilot) had found with J.F.’s account.”

J.F. Freight has approximately 87 power units and 64 drivers, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER website.

In its suit, FST Express Inc. claims it noticed a discrepancy with its fuel rebate with Pilot back in 2011. The complaint states that after calling Pilot about the discrepancy, a check was sent to FST for more than $22,600.

In the complaint, Janet Welch, former senior account manager for Pilot, who has pleaded guilty to her role in the alleged fuel rebate scheme, told FST President Dave Kent at the time that a discrepancy occurred “when we changed your discounts in July, our normal discount person was out and there was an error made when flagging the new deal.”

“Unbeknownst to plaintiff (FST) at that time, defendant (Pilot) was being investigated by the FBI for engaging in fraudulent activity directed toward its customers,” according to the lawsuit.

The company has 72 power units and 62 drivers, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER website.

In the amended complaint, J.F. Freight and FST charge Pilot with fraud, breach of contract and conversion. The suit also alleges that Pilot violated Illinois and Ohio’s Deceptive Trade Practices Acts and Tennessee’s Consumer Protection Act, as well as unjust enrichment.

So far, seven Pilot employees have pleaded guilty to their roles in the alleged fuel rebate scam, and dozens of lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court.

See related article:
Ohio-based trucking company files lawsuit against Pilot Flying J

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