Haslam Is Allowed To Contact Carriers, Judge Rules

Last week, Atlantic Coast Carriers filed a request for a temporary restraining order against Pilot Flying J and its CEO Jimmy Haslam.

Yesterday, a Knoxville judge ruled that Haslam is allowed to reach out to carriers that may have been victimized by his company’s “rebate scheme.” 

Judge Harold Wimberly ruled that Atlantic Coast Carriers lacked proof that Haslam was tampering with witnesses.

“We are delighted with the judge’s decision today,” Tom Ingram, a company spokesman, said after the judge made his ruling. “There was absolutely no proof of any wrongdoing on the part of Pilot Flying J or its CEO, Jimmy Haslam.”

Ingram said the idea that Pilot Flying J should not talk to its customers “is outrageous and would have crippled Pilot’s ability to do business.”

“Equally outrageous,” he said, “is the notion that the CEO of a company should not be able to reach out to his customers and say, ‘If we’ve short-changed you in any way, we apologize and will correct it and pay you 100 percent of what you are owed, no more and no less.’”

Pilot Flying J attorney Albert Harb added, the carriers “deserve to be paid what they are legitimately owed, no more or no less.” He said the attempt to restrain the company from doing that is “a classic example of ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’”

The request states that Haslam’s recent press release statements indicate that Haslam is, “contacting potential class members, obtaining releases and settling claims before the potential class members even know the full extent of their claims,” which constitutes as “an improper attempt to coerce parties and witnesses under Tennessee law.“Lawyers for Atlantic Coast Carriers of Hazlehurst, Georgia filed a request for a temporary restraining order against the company on April 25, 2013, after being contacted by Haslam in an attempt to reach a settlement and avoid litigation.  The restraining order seeks to prevent Haslam from contacting trucking companies until the investigation is complete.

The request goes on to state that  the issue of Haslam contacting carriers that may be involved is that “by obtaining releases in such a hurried fashion, [Pilot Flying J] is inducing potential class members to wave important rights before they obtain proper legal advice or know the full extent of any damages they have.”

In other words, if carriers agree to settle with Pilot Flying J, they are essentially signing away their rights in the case and may not be eligible to seek litigation if it is revealed that Pilot Flying J owes the carrier more than the agreed upon repayment amount.

Atlantic Coast Carriers’ attorney Mark Tate calls Pilot Flying J’s attempts to settle with carriers, “a public relations stunt by a company that got its hand caught int he cookie jar.”

Attorneys for Pilot Flying J disagree.  They say Haslam’s attempts to settle with trucking companies is not an attempt to avoid litigation but an attempt to right a wrong his company has done.

Haslam’s attorney Aubrey Harwell Jr. calls the restraining order “absolutely outrageous,” saying Haslam is simply “trying to pay money it owes.”

This week, Haslam released a statement saying he and his company were taking steps to “address the issues,” saying, “… If we find an underpayment, we will encourage the affected customer to review our finding, test with their own audit if they like, and if we owe them money, we will write them a check immediately.”

According to Cleveland.com, other trucking companies have been contacted Haslam in an attempt to settle out of court.

Sources: Cleveland.com

The Plain Dealer