Thursday, October 22, 2015
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
The one remaining federal civil suit stemming from diesel fuel fraud rebate charges has been sent back to a federal judge in Alabama who is now considering a motion to dismiss the remaining charges.
The suit filed by Wright Transportation, an Alabama trucking firm, includes charges of breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
U.S. District Judge William H. Steele is considering a motion by lawyers for Wright to dismiss the charges without prejudice so they can be refiled in Alabama state courts.
Lawyers for Pilot, meanwhile, have argued that the case should remain before Steele and they contend claims that sanctions should be imposed against Pilot are "frivolous and devoid of any supporting evidence."
The Wright case stems from charges that Pilot executives secretly reduced promised rebates to trucking firms across the country. The charges were detailed in a filing in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tenn. by an FBI agent.
Dozens of other civil suits stemming from the allegations have been settled but three, which were once coupled with the Wright case, are expected to be refiled in state courts in the near future.
U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar sitting in Kentucky dismissed the three cases and sent the Wright case back to Alabama.
"Because Wright is the only remaining case in the multi-district litigation, there are no longer benefits from centralized or coordinated proceedings," Thapar wrote.
In recent filings in the Wright case, Pilot's attorneys argued that the federal court retains jurisdiction
for the remaining claims despite the fact that they are based on state law. Jurisdiction, they argued, was established at the time the case was first filed.
Pilot also has denied charges that it deliberately withheld information about its corporate structure that would have ended the litigation in Kentucky.
Stephen Tunstall, Wright's attorney, however, accused Pilot of using "smoke and mirrors" to conceal details of its corporate structure.
"Pilot's position is neither legal or ethical," the Wright brief states.