February 25, 2014 3:15 PM, EST

Federal Court Panel to Hear Pilot Lawsuit Consolidation Request

Bloomberg News/George Frey

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has set a March 27 hearing in San Diego to consider a request by Pilot Flying J attorneys to consolidate seven lawsuits filed against the truck-stop chain seeking damages in connection with a diesel-fuel rebate fraud scheme.

Pilot attorneys said that the federal lawsuits filed in Alabama, New Jersey, New Mexico and Ohio should be consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville because they “involve common questions of fact.”

All seven motor carriers who filed the lawsuits against Pilot have opposed the consolidation in briefs filed this month.

One of the plaintiffs, Osborn Transportation Inc., argued that “although the common threads of fraud and misrepresentation are present in each cause of action against Pilot,” Osborn’s action is “predominantly individual and distinguishable from the other actions due to its different witnesses and facts.”

In November, a federal judge in Arkansas approved an $84.9 million settlement calling for Pilot Flying J to reimburse as many as 5,500 customers who were part of a class-action lawsuit alleging that the truck-stop chain fraudulently shortchanged them on diesel-fuel rebates dating to 2005.

Ten former employees of Pilot have pleaded guilty to their roles in scam to reduce the amounts trucking companies were entitled to receive. Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam, who also owns the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, has denied involvement.