Fresh off a settlement victory in federal court, Pilot Flying J has moved to head off litigation moving forward in Knox County.
The Knoxville-based chain of truck stops on Tuesday filed motions to dismiss lawsuits filed in Knox County Circuit Court by some trucking companies that allege they were victims of diesel fuel rebate fraud.
In memos filed with the court, Pilot made a variety of arguments for why the lawsuits should be dismissed. A suit filed by Georgia-based Atlantic Coast Carriers and other trucking firms, for example, sought certification of a class that was harmed by Pilot’s actions.
The company argued, though, that the proposed class is barred by a global settlement approved on Monday by a federal judge in Arkansas.
In its most recent filings Pilot also argued, among other things, that Atlantic Coast and other plaintiffs failed to establish racketeering claims and that their breach of contract claims must be dismissed because they did not identify any specific contract terms that were allegedly breached.
In response to allegations of “conversion” — that the fuel chain appropriated customer money for its own use — Pilot argued that plaintiffs had failed to make their case, and also argued that any claims regarding alleged acts which took place before April 20, 2010, are barred by Tennessee’s three-year statute of limitations.
The rebate controversy erupted in April, after federal officials raided Pilot’s headquarters, and an ongoing criminal investigation has netted seven guilty pleas.
The company also was hit with more than 20 civil lawsuits, and reached an $84.9 million settlement with some of those plaintiffs in which it offered to fully repay any company that was shorted on fuel rebates, plus 6 percent interest and attorneys’ fees.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge James M. Moody approved the settlement, saying it was fair, reasonable and adequate.
More than 50 companies opted out of the settlement, though, and are pursuing their own lawsuits, including plaintiffs that have sued in Knox County Circuit Court.