Mass. BP, Getty Station Owners' Fuel Deposits Gone

Attorney withdraws, plaintiffs decline to spend more money on Green Valley Oil suit

BOSTON -- Dozens of BP and Getty gas station owners in Massachusetts are out more than $600,000 in security deposits, reported The Worcester Business Journal. The stations banded together last year to sue distributor Green Valley Oil (GVO), which has since gone out of business. As of this month, a judge has dismissed nearly every plaintiff after the group's attorney withdrew and the owners did not want to spend more money on the case.

The station owners' attorney, with the law firm LeClairRyan, officially withdrew from the case in March, according to the report, saying that many of the plaintiffs were not "fulfilling their duties."

GVO said that 10 affidavits filed with the lawsuit listed $378,000 worth of deposits. A separate court document filed by the station owners lists 17 stations and their security deposits, some as high as $50,000.

Because the station owners did not wish to invest more money in the case and missed deadlines to find new counsel, the judge dismissed them in batches, the most recent of which was this month and included the business of George Youssef, owner of Getty station Ashland Auto Service Center.

He told the newspaper that he has not seen any of his $28,000 deposit to GVO. He was one of a number of plaintiffs to file an affidavit in the suit, saying that contracted fuel deliveries from GVO were interrupted starting in January of 2012.

Youssef said that during the first half of 2012, he went for more than a month without gasoline, and when it did arrive, the prices were well above local area prices. He and some of the other plaintiffs said they were forced to close their pumps during shortages. They were contractually obligated not to purchase the fuel from other distributors.

Youssef is now on a one-year trial contract with a new distributor, which requires a $20,000 deposit, the report said. But the distributor is allowing him to pay in increments. He said he paid $5,000 up front and is paying $500 a month until he pays off the deposit.

In the suit filed last year, the station owners asked the court to award $1.4 million in damages. GVO countered that state law provided more time for it to repay the deposits, and its contracts with the owners did not hold it liable for circumstances beyond its control, such as its sublessor's bankruptcy.

Providence, R.I.-based GVO was subleasing 254 New England station properties from Getty Petroleum Marketing Inc. (GPMI), East Meadow, N.Y., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2011. GPMI was, in turn, subleasing the properties directly from Getty Realty Corp., Jericho, N.Y.

Click here to read the Worcester Business Journalreport.