Fairness hearing set for Nov. 25 in Pilot Flying J proposed settlement

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, November 21, 2013

As the deadline looms for the fairness hearing in the proposed class action settlement in the Pilot Flying J alleged fuel rebate scheme, some trucking companies have opted out of the deal and are pursuing legal action on their own against the nation’s largest truck stop chain.

After originally denying that Harold David Story Inc. of Dalton, Ga., doing business as Cedar Creek, was owed rebate money, Pilot has since changed its tune.

According to court documents, Cedar Creek was sent a check for more than $56,200 in early November. A few weeks earlier it was stated that Pilot had not completed its internal audit, and the results of the audit into whether the company was owed money would not be ready prior to the opt-out deadline of Oct. 15.

Rachel Albright of The Ingram Group, the public relations firm that represents Pilot Flying J, clarified in a statement to Land Line on Nov. 20 that Cedar Creek was a Pilot Customer and that the company was indeed owed money.

“Based on our initial review of the account, we did not find any discrepancies; however, upon further review, we discovered a discrepancy and notified the customer as promised,” she said.

In a motion filed in circuit court in Knoxville, Tenn., on behalf of Cedar Creek, the company’s attorneys have asked that Pilot not be allowed to communicate directly with their client. Pilot mailed the rebate check, plus 4 percent, after the trucking company filed its own lawsuit against the truck stop chain.

According to the complaint, Cedar Creek “was injured to its detriment and was caused significant damages when Cedar Creek was forced to restructure debt and financing it would otherwise not have had to do.”

While some trucking companies have opted out to pursue their own legal action against Pilot, as many as 5,500 eligible trucking companies have been included in the proposed settlement deal, according to Albright. The terms of the settlement may exceed $72 million.

Of the approximately $72 million, approximately $55 million will go toward the total principal amount owed to the class, according to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Little Rock, Ark. The remaining $17 million will be used for attorney’s fees, plus administrative costs.

More than 30 lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court against Pilot since the announcement in April that a criminal investigation had been launched into the truck stop chain over an alleged fuel rebate scam.

So far, seven former Pilot sales employees have pleaded guilty to their roles in the alleged scam to defraud trucking companies out of rebates they were owed as part of agreements to purchase a certain volume of fuel from Pilot each month.

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