Local lawsuits against Pilot Flying J have been resolved

Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN) |

June 30--Several lawsuits filed against Pilot Flying J in Knox County Circuit Court have been resolved.

The suits came in the wake of a criminal investigation into alleged diesel fuel rebate fraud at the Knoxville-based chain of truck stops. When the probe became public last year, Georgia attorney Mark Tate was among the most aggressive plaintiffs' attorneys to take aim at Pilot.

Tate filed lawsuits on behalf of several trucking companies, set up a website called rebatebulls--- .com to publicize his firm's activities and pushed unsuccessfully to take depositions of top Pilot executives, including CEO Jimmy Haslam.

Drew McElroy, a Knoxville attorney who had worked with Tate and another lawyer, Bart Turner, on the cases, said Friday that "they've been settled to the mutual satisfaction of the clients," although he said that in one case a lawsuit was "nonsuited." He declined to elaborate.

Pilot had said in legal filings that during the time of the complaint, one of Tate's clients didn't participate in the rebate program in question, and that three others were not owed any money.

Aubrey Harwell, an attorney representing Pilot, said the company "made a judgment early on that it was going to treat its customers fairly and it would resolve those cases where a fair resolution could be reached. This is one of many that have been resolved."

In November, Pilot reached an $85 million settlement in federal court with trucking customers who claimed they had been shorted on diesel fuel rebates. Under that settlement, Pilot agreed to repay any amounts owed, plus 6 percent interest and attorneys' fees.

Pilot still faces a handful of lawsuits from customers who opted out of the federal class-action settlement.

Pretrial proceedings in those suits are ongoing before a federal judge in Kentucky.

Ten former Pilot employees have pleaded guilty in a related criminal investigation and are cooperating with federal prosecutors.

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