With a tentative, nationwide settlement of the claims against Pilot Flying J pending in Arkansas, a panel of federal judges charged with the responsibility of managing complex cases that stretch over multiple states has denied an effort to consolidate into one proceeding the various claims against the company run by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.
Via the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the panel determined that consolidation of the cases could delay the settlement proceedings in Arkansas.
The ruling doesn’t alter in any way the ability of customers to choose not to participate in the settlement. They each can “opt out” and pursue their own claims.
A challenge to the fairness of the national settlement can still be mounted, but the fact that a judge already has approved the settlement on a preliminary basis could make that difficult. If the settlement is approved, the claims brought by the customers who opted out will proceed, possibly at that point in one courtroom.
All of this relates only to civil claims aimed at securing reimbursement, and possibly more, from Pilot Flying J for a pattern of customer fraud that possibly extends back to 2005. The more significant problems for Haslam could come from the grand jury in Tennessee that is investigating the case from a criminal perspective.
Seven employees of Pilot Flying J have pleaded guilty to federal charges, and by all appearances prosecutors are trying to climb as high up the ladder as possible. Haslam sits at the top of said ladder.