Saturday, August 27, 2016

Truckers Move to Force Haslam Deposition

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Two trucking firms say they need Jimmy Haslam's sworn testimony to pursue claims they were cheated by the truck stop company Haslam heads and they will pursue it with or without the assistance of an Ohio court.
In an eight-page filing in Franklin County Ohio Common Pleas Court, lawyers for FST Express and HB Logistics said they would even seek to accommodate Haslam by not scheduling his deposition the week after Haslam's Cleveland Browns face the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"To increase the chances of catching Haslam in a good mood, plaintiffs will try to avoid taking the deposition during the week after the Steelers' game," the motion states.
The suit is one of two remaining against Pilot Flying J stemming from a federal investigation and the indictment of 8 top former Pilot sales executives. Ten others have entered guilty pleas. A filing in federal court in Tennessee by a federal agent describes a widespread scheme by Pilot staffers to cheat truckers out of millions of dollars in promised rebates.
The filing this week leaves it to Franklin County Judge David C. Young to decide whether he wants to issue an order to Tennessee court officials to facilitate a Haslam deposition.
"To be clear: it was not and is not essential that plaintiffs present such a request to obtain Haslam's testimony," the filing states, adding that "the court has the discretion to refrain from becoming involved."
According to the filing, a request for a subpoena can be sent directly  to the Tennessee courts.
The truckers dispute claims filed by Pilot Flying J that Haslam's testimony is unneccessary because he knew nothing about the rebate scheme.
"Haslam should be able to shed light on how the fraud was conducted, why Pilot did nothing to stop it until the FBI raided Pilot's headquarters on April 15, 2013 and whether Pilot's top executives turned a blind eye to fraud," the filing states.
Noting that former Pilot President Mark Hazelwood is among those indicted, the filing states that Hazelwood reported directly to Haslam.
Finally the filing notes that despite claims by Pilot's lawyers that Haslam is too busy running the company to be deposed, Haslam has indicated in an Alabama suit that he would be willing to be deposed.
In addition the filing notes Haslam has found the time to attend to the Cleveland Browns and give media interviews about a coaching change and comments at an NFL owners meetings.
"Unless Haslam's announced willingness to provide deposition testimony was merely a publicity stunt to create the appearance of cooperation, it appears Haslam does not share Pilot's concern that a deposition would pose an undue burden," the filing states.

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