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Pilot Flying J OK'd to Consolidate Rebate Fraud Suits

SAN DIEGO -- Seven pending civil lawsuits against Pilot Flying J will be heard as one in a Kentucky court room.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, sitting in San Diego, issued a ruling on Monday sending the consolidated lawsuits to the Eastern District of Kentucky. The panel first heard motions to consolidate the legal actions in late March.

Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J wanted to move the litigation to the Eastern District of Tennessee. However, according to court papers, all of the plaintiffs opposed that motion and alternatively suggested centralization in the Northern District of Alabama, the District of New Jersey or the Southern District of Ohio.

The seven civil suits are from companies that opted out of the class-action settlement put on the table in July and approved by the courts in November.

"On the basis of the papers filed and hearing session held, we find that these seven actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the Eastern District of Kentucky will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation," the judicial order reads. "The subject actions share factual issues arising out of allegations that defendants engaged in a fraudulent scheme of withholding diesel fuel price rebates or discounts that Pilot agreed by contract to apply to the diesel fuel purchases of its commercial trucking customers."

U.S. Judge Amul R. Thapar, who is currently presiding over related criminal proceedings in the Eastern District of Tennessee, sits in the Eastern District of Kentucky, according to the order, and is familiar with the facts in the litigation.

"The Eastern District of Kentucky, where Judge Thapar sits, is easily accessible for parties and witnesses; and Kentucky borders Tennessee, where Pilot is headquartered and where relevant documents and witnesses will be found," the panel's order noted.

The civil suits trace back to a federal raid on Pilot Flying J's company headquarters one year ago. The companies involved in the lawsuits are Shoreline Transportation of Alabama USA Inc., Osborn Transportation Inc., Wright Transportation Inc., National Retail Transportation Inc., Mario's Express Service Inc., Triple Supply D LLC and FST Express Inc.

Pilot Flying J is a family-owned business that operates more 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America.

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