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    Bad Manners Costs Flying J

    Court awards driver $705,000 as relief for unjust accusation.

    ROANOKE, Va. -- A federal judge here awarded $705,000 to a trucker falsely accused of stealing diesel fuel from a Flying J location in Wytheville, Va.

    Michael Anthony Stamathis was an employee of Alabama-based J-Mar Trucking in December 2000 when he stopped for gas at the Wytheville Flying J Travel Plaza along Interstate 81. According to injuryboard.com and the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO), Stamathis tried to use his J-Mar fuel card at the pump (the company had an account with the truckstop), but it was not accepted.

    After filling his truck with $138 in diesel, Stamathis moved his vehicle onto a neighboring lot so as not to block the fueling lane. When he attempted to return to the travel plaza to pay the bill, unbeknownst to him, a travel-center employee had contacted the county sheriff's office, which then arrested him and charged him with petty larceny.

    After the charges were dropped three months later, Stamathis filed suit against the Flying J truckstop and the store's manager, alleging he was unjustly accused of stealing the gas, according to injuryboard.com He sued the travel-plaza chain and its manager for $250,000 in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

    At the end of the two-day trial, the jury awarded $5,000 in compensatory damages against the manager, $250,000 compensatory damages against Flying J and $450,000 in punitive damages against the company.

    Ogden, Utah-based Flying J operates more than 150 travel centers in the United States and Canada.

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