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PORTLAND, Maine -- A federal judicial panel considering consolidating the numerous class-action lawsuits against Pilot Flying J ruled today in favor of the Knoxville, Tenn.-based company.
As CSNews Online previously reported, lawyers for some plaintiffs asked the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to rule in favor of consolidating the lawsuits related to alleged fraud in Pilot Flying J's fuel rebate program. The request came last month after Pilot Flying J had reached a proposed settlement with eight plaintiffs.
The retailer and those eight plaintiffs asked the panel to defer the consolidation request until after Nov. 25, when an Arkansas judge is slated to hold a fairness hearing on the proposed settlement.
In today's ruling, the federal panel sitting in Portland sided with Pilot Flying J, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. "The Eastern District of Arkansas recently granted preliminary approval of a proposed nationwide class settlement, and final approval of the settlement will be considered in a few months," the ruling stated. "Centralization at this time could delay settlement proceedings."
The proposed settlement agreement, which received preliminary approval from U.S. District Judge James M. Moody of the Eastern District of Arkansas, calls for Pilot Flying J to pay the plaintiffs 100 percent of their losses plus 6-percent interest, and to cover all attorney's fees for customers in the class. Pilot Flying J customers have until Oct. 15 to opt out of the proposed class-action settlement.
In addition to challenges in civil court, Pilot Flying J is facing trouble in the criminal courts. To date, seven employees have pleaded guilty in connection with the fraud allegations, which stem from an April 15 raid on the company's headquarters by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service. A federal grand jury is also investigating the charges against the company.
Pilot Flying J is a family-owned business that operates more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America.