Pilot Flying J Cases Won't Be Consolidated

In victory for embattled truckstop company, federal panel denies request pending Nov. hearing

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

PORTLAND, Maine -- A panel of federal judges in Portland, Maine, has denied a motion to consolidate by plaintiffs in several lawsuits against Pilot Flying J stemming from the federal investigation into an alleged diesel fuel rebate scam while another court considers approval of a settlement.

The Knoxville, Tenn.-based truckstop company Pilot Flying J has been the subject of intense scrutiny and more than two-dozen lawsuits since April 15, when agents of the FBI and the IRS raided its headquarters and seized documents, emails and computer files related to the alleged scheme to cheat trucking-company customers out of rebates due to them for purchasing diesel fuel at the chain's more than 650 truckstops.

According to an Order Denying Transfer issued today (see File Attachments below) by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation:

"Plaintiffs in four actions and potential tagalong actions support centralization in the Southern District of Mississippi and plaintiff in a District of New Hampshire potential tag-along action supports centralization in the Northern District of Ohio. Plaintiffs in eight actions and potential tagalong actions, most of whom had previously supported centralization in the Southern District of Mississippi, and [defendant Pilot Flying J] agree that the actions meet the criteria for centralization, but ask the panel to defer its ruling to allow the Eastern District of Arkansas to consider final approval of a recently negotiated nationwide class settlement. If the panel deems centralization appropriate, however, these parties argue that the Eastern District of Arkansas is the most appropriate transferee district."

It concluded, "We find that centralization at this time will not serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses or promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation. ... Centralization at this time could delay settlement proceedings. ... It is not possible to predict the contours of the litigation, and whether centralization will be beneficial, if and after the settlement is granted final approval."

The judge in Arkansas is slated to hold the settlement fairness hearing after Nov. 25.

Pilot Flying J is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. Its network provides customers with access to more than 60,000 parking spaces for trucks, more than 4,400 showers and more than 4,000 diesel lanes. Pilot Logistics Services is one of the largest independent energy logistics companies in North America, selling and distributing more than 1.3 billion gallons of refined petroleum products and serving more than 15,000 customers. Together, Pilot Flying J and Pilot Logistics Services generate sales of approximately nine billion gallons of petroleum annually.