Judge Dismisses Some Claims Against Pilot Flying J, Haslam

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Some claims against Pilot Flying J in connection with fraud allegations in its fuel rebate program will continue to wind their way through the legal system, while others will not.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar ruled that several trucking companies can proceed with their claims against the travel center operator. However, the judge also granted Pilot Flying J's motion to dismiss several other counts against the company, according to The Associated Press.

The judge allowed two-dozen counts by the trucking companies to proceed. They include claims of breach of contract, fraud and negligent misrepresentation. On the flip side, Thapar granted Pilot Flying J's motion to dismiss more than a dozen other counts.

Thapar also dismissed seven of 11 civil claims against Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam and allowed four others to go forward, including accusations of unjust enrichment and conspiracy to commit fraud. Haslam has not been charged with any crime.

"Pilot's efforts to delay this case are over," Leonard Leicht, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, said after the ruling. "We look forward to engaging in discovery with Pilot and finally obtaining all of the underlying documents which have never been produced. ... This includes data as to their actual costs, which will finally enable my client to calculate the amount of money it lost as a result of Pilot's fraud."

Leicht is an attorney for National Retail Transportation and Keystone Freight, which are among several trucking companies that opted out of a settlement that resolved most of the lawsuits against Pilot Flying J, the news outlet reported.

In 2013, Pilot Flying J reached a settlement to a federal class-action lawsuit that will pay trucking companies 100 percent of owed fuel rebates plus 6-percent interest. The company estimated that it will repay more than $55 million to trucking companies involved in the lawsuit, with its total settlement costs reaching approximately $72 million, as CSNews Online previously reported.

The trucking companies involved in Wednesday's ruling decided to pursue their own lawsuits.

According to the AP, Pilot Flying J attorney Aubrey Harwell said the remaining plaintiffs opted out of the settlement that "would have assured them any amount owed plus interest and chose instead ... to make exorbitant, overreaching claims."

"We're pleased the court dismissed a number of the plaintiffs' claims and we believe that the remaining efforts by the plaintiffs to collect excessive damages and attorneys' fees lack merit," Harwell said. "We intend to continue to defend against them vigorously."

Thapar heard arguments on the retailer's motion to dismiss all the lawsuits last month in Covington, Ky.

Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J operates more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. 

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