A federal court has scheduled a June 9 hearing to give potential final approval for a series of lawsuits in a long-running “hot fuel” case, after giving preliminary approval to settlements with 28 oil and fuel retailers.
The case follows several years of litigation since the Kansas City Star detailed in a series of 2006 stories how truckers and others were not getting full energy content from diesel and gasoline when those fuels expand in warm weather, thus lowering Btu content per volume.
The paper reported that consumers were being overcharged an estimated $2.3 billion annually at then-current prices for diesel and gasoline, even when accounting for fuel sales below a 60-degree threshold.
About 50 lawsuits were subsequently filed from around the country and consolidated in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas.
“The end is in sight,” said Robert Horn, lead plaintiffs’ attorney with the Kansas City, Missouri, law firm Horn, Aylward & Bandy. “It’s a long process — these kind of cases tend to take a long time.”
The plaintiffs are all consumers of gasoline and diesel — including truckers, Horn told Transport Topics.
The cases involved multiple-state class-action lawsuits that were combined in federal court. U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Vratil gave preliminary approval to settlements that have been reached over the past few years, Horn said.
Six oil companies agreed to pay almost $23 million to reimburse retailers for installing equipment that corrects for the effects of temperature on fuel. Some of that money, and an additional $1.6 million from 18 other companies, will be used to help states oversee retail fuel sales, the plaintiffs said in a statement.
The June hearing is “really when the court will hear if there are objectors, and assuming there aren’t, or if she overrules them, we’ll move forward with the actual settlement,” Horn said, adding that the plaintiffs were generally pleased with the results.
“Some defendants overlap in some states, and some appear in only one or two of the states,” he said. “That’s what’s complicated about it.”