With a settlement pending between Pilot Flying J and a number of plaintiffs, Pilot Flying J’s attorney addressed a range of questions about the settlement on the company’s Website this week.
On July 16, the United States District Court, Western Division of the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock, gave preliminary approval to the consolidation and oversight of all class action lawsuits filed against Pilot Flying J in conjunction with the federal investigation alleging fraud in Pilot Flying J’s diesel fuel sales rebate and discount programs.
A fairness hearing is scheduled in Little Rock on Nov. 25, at which time many observers expect the court to give final approval to the settlement proposed in this case.
Nashville attorney Aubrey Harwell, senior partner of the law firm of Neal & Harwell, which represents Pilot Flying J in this matter, outlined the proposed settlement and its potential impact on Pilot Flying J customers.
“Attorneys representing a number of Pilot Flying J customers and attorneys representing Pilot Flying J asked the federal court in Little Rock to consolidate all class action lawsuits against Pilot Flying J into one suit with a proposed settlement, in an effort to expedite any and all claims in the best interest of all parties, in the shortest amount of time, and in the most cost-efficient manner,” Harwell noted.
Many believe the fairness hearing scheduled for Nov. 25 will result in an approval of the settlement, but until then, members of the eligible class of Pilot Flying J customers have until Oct. 15 to opt-out of the class.
The “eligible class” members constitute any Pilot Flying J customer who between Jan. 1, 2005, and April 15, 2013, bought over the road diesel fuel for commercial use from Pilot Flying J under a rebate or discount program, Harwell explained. If an eligible member does nothing, they are automatically are a member of the class, but those customers that wish to pursue their own remedy outside of the class should notify the Court by Oct. 15 that they do not want to be a member of the class, in which case the customer will “opt-out,” he added.
For Pilot Flying J customers who stay in the class, it means “every Pilot Flying J customer potentially (that) owed an additional rebate or discount has an opportunity to be paid promptly, and with minimum effort, every dollar plus interest. More specifically, the settlement states that all Pilot Flying J customers that are part of the class and stay in the class will have their accounts audited from Jan. 1, 2005 through July 15, 2013, at no cost to the class member. Each class member then will be paid 100% of the amount owed, plus 6% interest,” he explained.
A notice regarding the settlement was mailed to class members in early August, and detailed information about the settlement, can be found at www.DieselRebateSettlement.com.
“The United States District Court in Little Rock has made a preliminary finding that this settlement ‘appears to be fair, reasonable, and adequate.’ A number of plaintiffs and their lawyers have also said that they think this settlement is fair and have agreed to it; one prominent lawyer representing trucking companies called it ‘the best settlement he had ever negotiated.’ Nonetheless, Pilot Flying J does not want any customer that is uncomfortable with the settlement to feel it has to participate. Pilot Flying J values and appreciates its customers’ opinions and right to do as they believe best,” Harwell said.
Harwell further noted that Pilot Flying J believes this is a good settlement for its customers and that they should participate in the settlement because:
• It provides that all Pilot Flying J customers who are owed money will be paid quickly, every dollar owed plus interest.
• It provides a complete and fair review of each Pilot Flying J customer’s account from 2005 forward.
• Pilot Flying J customers will know that their accounts are being audited with Court oversight and that they have options if they do not agree with the audit results.
• Pilot Flying J customers do not need to hire and pay a lawyer to receive any payment owed.
Customers who don’t wish to be included in the settlement have two options. They can request to be excluded (or “opt-out”) of this settlement, even if the customer already has received and cashed a check from Pilot Flying J, or they can remain in the class action, but tell the Arkansas Court why they disagree with the settlement and ask the Court not to approve it. The deadline for taking either of these steps is Oct. 15.
“It’s an extraordinary action on the part of the Court, the plaintiffs and their lawyers, and Pilot Flying J to do 100% of what is right for Pilot Flying J’s customers as soon as possible with the least costs and disruption to everyone’s business as possible,” said Harwell. “It is historic in my experience as a lawyer, and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
For the full Q&A with Harwell, visit: http://rebateeducation.pilotflyingj.com/q-and-a-with-aubrey-harwell-neal-and-harwell-counsel-for-pilot-flying-j/