Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Browns' Owner Fights Deposition in Ohio Rebate Suits
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Having won a temporary reprieve from a deposition ordered by an Alabama judge, Cleveland Browns owner James A. Haslam 3rd is asking an Ohio judge to deny a motion to force his testimony in a separate suit brought by three other trucking companies.
Lawyers for Haslam this week filed a motion to block a deposition requested by three trucking firms that have charged that Haslam's Pilot Flying J truck stop firm routinely cheated them out of promised rebates.
In the suit in Franklin County Ohio the truckers last week said Haslam's testimony was essential and they asked for an order that would require Haslam's appearance at a deposition on May 11 in Knoxville, Tenn.
Haslam's lawyers responded by arguing that Haslam had no personal knowledge of the alleged rebate fraud scheme and that requiring his testimony would be unduly burdensome.
Just last week an Alabama judge rejected an appeal by Haslam of an earlier order requiring his appearance at the May 11 deposition. The judge did, however, agree to hear additional arguments on May 13 by Pilot's lawyers in the suit brought by Wright Transportation and to put off the scheduled deposition temporarily.
In the Ohio case brought by HB Logistics, FST Express and Dick Lavy Trucking, Haslam's lawyers stated that the May 11 deposition "has been deferred by the court in Alabama and it is unclear when or if that deposition will be rescheduled."
Haslam, the motion continues, "had no involvement with plaintiffs' accounts and he is a third party to the lawsuit."
Haslam's lawyers also argued that any deposition of him would be premature because there are pending motions before the court that could end the suit.
"Plaintiffs should not be permitted to depose Pilot's most senior executive when it is clear he does not possess unique firsthand knowledge regarding plaintiff's allegations," the motion states.
The deposition battle is the latest development in a handful of remaining civil suits stemming from charges that Pilot sales executives oversaw a longtime scheme to cheat truckers out of promised rebates.
The allegations already have cost Pilot more than $175 million to settle claims by other truckers and the federal government.
Ten former Pilot executives already have entered guilty pleas to mail and wire fraud charges and more than a half dozen others, including former President Mark Hazelwood, have been indicted and await trial.