Friday, October 28, 2016
Stay Granted in Alabama Pilot Suit
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
An Alabama judge has granted a stay to Pilot Travel and it chief executive James A. Haslam in a longstanding suit in which a trucking firm charges it was cheated out of millions of dollars in promised rebates.
The stay halts most proceeding in the case pending the results of a related appeal in federal court.
But the decision by Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Hicks Stewart does allow lawyers for Wright Trucking to continue discovery, including depositions of key figures including Haslam.
The owner of the Cleveland Browns, has thus far rebuffed efforts to take testimony under oath about his knowledge of the multi-million dollar rebate cheating scheme.
Haslam, however, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the rebate fraud, but his company already has paid out some $175 million to settle claims from truckers and to settle a complaint filed by the federal government.
The Alabama suit is one of two remaining legal claims against Pilot. The other, filed by two other trucking firms, is pending in a Franklin County Ohio court. In both the Ohio and Alabama cases, lawyers have initiated attempts to force Haslam to testify.
Stewart denied the stay sought by Brian Mosher, another former Pilot sales staffer, because he failed to perfect his appeal and failed to answer the original complaint.
In the ruling this week Stewart gave Mosher additional time to file an answer.
The two pending suits and a now settled class action suit in Arkansas followed a raid on Pilot's Knoxville, Tenn. headquarters by the FBI. An FBI agent later filed an affidavit in federal court detailing a widespread scheme by Pilot sales staffers to cheat truckers out of promised rebates.
While dozens of trucking firms agreed to a settlement, Wright, FST Express and HB Logistics opted out of the settlement and decided to pursue their claims in state courts.
Ten former Pilot sales staffers already have entered guilty pleas to mail and wire fraud charges and another eight have entered not guilty pleas and face trial in Knoxville, Tenn. next year. A recent effort for a change of venue in those cases was denied.