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WORCESTER, Mass. – Dozens of BP and Getty gas station owners in Massachusetts lost out on more than $600,000 in security deposits after their fuel distributor, Providence, R.I.-based Green Valley Oil (GVO), went out of business last year, according to a report by Worcester Business Journal Online.
Hopes of reimbursement have faded since a judge dismissed most plaintiffs listed in a lawsuit against GVO following the withdrawal of the group's attorney.
One plaintiff who filed an affidavit in the lawsuit, George Youssef, owner of Ashland Auto Service Center, a Getty station, lost his $28,000 deposit. Youssef told the news outlet that GVO deliveries were interrupted starting in January 2012. During the first half of that year, he went without gasoline for over a month. He and some other station owners had to close pumps during shortages because they were contractually obligated to only buy gas from GVO. Additionally, when the company did deliver gas, it was priced significantly higher than local area rates.
The lawsuit against GVO, also filed last year, requested $1.4 million in damages that included interest and penalties. In its response, GVO stated that under state law, it had more time to repay the deposits, and that its contracts with gas station owners did not hold it liable for circumstances beyond its control, including the bankruptcy of its sublessor. GVO had been subleasing 254 properties from Getty Petroleum Marketing Inc., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2011.
In a separate New York lawsuit, GVO stated that the Getty bankruptcy damaged its credit and ability to purchase enough gas to fulfill contractual obligations, according to the news report.
In response to the Massachusetts lawsuit, GVO argued that it had the right to terminate its contracts with the plaintiffs as of April 30, 2012 because in March, Getty informed GVO that it was terminating all 254 leases. Such an action is contractually allowed if a superior lease or sublease is terminated, according to GVO.
Additionally, GVO noted that 10 affidavits filed with the lawsuits listed just $378,000 worth of deposits. Another court document filed by the plaintiffs lists 17 gas stations with security deposits as high as $50,000.
The judge in the case dismissed plaintiffs in batches when they chose not to invest more money in fighting for their lost deposits and missed deadlines for finding new counsel. Boston-based firm LeClairRyan withdrew from the case in March, with an attorney claiming plaintiffs were not "fulfilling their duties."
Youssef stated that he and his fellow plaintiffs had grown doubtful that there would be any money to recover from GVO, and that attorneys asked for $7,000 from each of them to continue the case.
A single remaining eastern Massachusetts plaintiff is representing himself in the case, according to the report.