(Note: We’ll try to keep an eye on this without going overboard in non-Browns news angles, but when something significant does occur, we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.)
When a company that allegedly rips off customers engages in a P.R. battle with attorneys heading up a class action lawsuit, who comes out looking better? Jimmy Haslam started a campaign of talking to customers who were allegedly out money at the hands of Pilot Flying J employees. The attorneys who were attempting to recruit those same customers into their lawsuit were seeking a restraining order on the grounds of “obstruction of justice.” Attorneys Drew McElroy and Mark Tate were on record at KnoxNews.com.
“At issue in this case is the danger that … defendants are inducing potential class members to waive important rights before they obtain proper legal advice or know the full extent of any damages they have,” the attorneys wrote. “The amounts defendants are now offering potential class members may be well below the full amount of their claims. … Defendants should not now be permitted to influence witnesses and pay what they should have paid years ago in an attempt to undermine the class-action process.”
Of course those attorneys are not speaking on behalf of the criminal investigation being conducted by the FBI and IRS. They’re attempting to put a civil suit together in order to seek compensation and damages from Pilot Flying J on behalf of their clients. I don’t know what the percentages are, but most attorneys I’ve interacted with indicate that settlements are a very common outcome in these cases. The attorneys, of course, take a cut of those damages or settlements.
Jimmy Haslam has reportedly been out dealing with customers trying to make good on past misdeeds to try and minimize the damage. It’s a self-serving campaign, but I could also argue that it is the right thing to do, potentially. It just seems a little “fresh” that the attorneys who want clients to get what they think is fair from Pilot Flying J would have a problem with customers doing just that with Jimmy Haslam directly while claiming impropriety. They might truly believe they can do better for these customers than they can do on their own, but it stands to reason they might be more interested in their own payday and a judge had a chance to decide what to do this morning.
The judge has decided to deny their motion for a restraining order according to WBIR Channel 10 in Knoxville.
Judge denies motion for restraining order to keep Pilot Flying J from contacting victims of alleged rebate fraud. WBIR.
— WBIR Channel 10 (@wbir) April 29, 2013
That means Haslam and company are free to continue to try and make good with their mistreated customers for now. The judge seemed convinced as well, saying, “Why would I not be delighted that these cases be settled out of court?”