U.S. District Judge James M. Moody approved a $84.9 million settlement in the Pilot Flying J fuel rebate scandal in a Little Rock, Arkansas courtroom Monday.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and his Pilot Flying J Travel Centers have agreed to settle scores of class action lawsuits filed by truckers who alleged they were cheated of promised fuel rebates.
The settlement agreement could include as many as 400 trucking companies, who believe they have claims, and payouts could reach $35 million.
In a statement released by Haslam said he plans to "pay truckers 100 percent of the money they are owed."
In addition, said Haslam,"Pilot Flying J will pay all court, administrative, accounting, mailing, processing and legal costs incurred."
Haslam also conceded that "this is an unfortunate time for our customers and our company, but we remain committed to making things 100 percent right".
The class action settlement agreement was approved Tuesday by U.S. District Judge James M. Moody in federal court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Don Barrett, lead attorney representing trucking companies, credited Haslam for a quick resolution of the litigation.
"Jimmy Haslam made this possible," Barrett said. "He was intent on doing the right thing."
Attorneys for both sides have already signed off on the agreement that provides:
-Cash settlement for all claims, plus interest at 6 percent
-Two sets of auditors--one representing trucking company--will calculate disputed dollar amounts
-Up to 25 percent paid in damages
-Pilot Flying J will pay all costs, including attorneys
"Jimmy Haslam took the position early on he was going to do the right thing and this is one more step in getting this done," said Nashville Attorney Aurbrey Harwell, Jr., who represented Haslam and Pilot Flying J in court.
Barrett credited Harwell for his role representing Pilot Flying J Travel Centers, calling Harwell "a man of integrity".
At least 21 trucking companies across the country have filed lawsuits.
According to court documents, the settlement agreement "provides for a nationwide class settlement of the claims that are the subject of this litigation."
The court found that more than 4,000 customers of Haslam's Pilot Flying J company fall into the settlement class as defined in the agreement, though it estimated that 300 to 400 involve companies that were shorted through the alleged rebate fraud.
The settlement agreement specifically outlines that there is "no admission of liability" on the part of Haslam and Pilot Flying J Travel Centers, and that "the parties entered into the Settlement Agreement solely for the purpose of compromising and settling disputed claims."
"Nothing in the agreement shall be construed, deemed, or offered as an admission by any of the parties or any member of the settlement class for any purpose in any judicial or administrative action."
An ongoing federal criminal probe continues into alleged fraud and five Pilot employees have pleaded guilty so far.
Haslam has not been charged with a crime and denies any wrongdoing.
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