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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Several Pilot Flying J customers are walking away from the proposed class-action settlement on the table. On Tuesday, Pilot Flying J attorney Aubrey Harwell said approximately 50 of the Knoxville-based company's 6,000-plus customers have opted out of the settlement. Some are pursuing their own lawsuits, according to The Associated Press.
Tuesday was the opt-out deadline, but the exact number of customers that chose not to participate in the settlement may not be known for a few days. Customers who don't opt out are automatically included.
The settlement, which was proposed in July, centers around allegations of fraud in Pilot Flying J's fuel rebate program. The allegations came to light after an April 15 federal raid on the company's headquarters. Since then, several employees have pleaded guilty in connection with the fraud and more than 20 lawsuits have been filed against Pilot Flying J. In addition, a federal grand jury is reported to be investigating the allegations.
According to the news agency, Harwell said Pilot Flying J thinks the settlement is fair. He said that fairness is evidenced by the small percentage of customers choosing to opt out of the deal.
Knoxville attorney Drew McElroy filed suits against Pilot Flying J for seven clients and said a few others have decided not to accept the settlement in order to keep their options open. He explained the main problem he sees with the settlement is that it doesn't allow customers to collect punitive damages.
Birmingham, Ala., attorney David Guin, who represents a trucking company that decided to accept the settlement, said he met with the accounting firm that is checking Pilot Flying J's figures and is confident his clients will get what they are owed.
Family-owned Pilot Flying J operates more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America.