We have seen some major developments arise in the Hot Fuel MDL in the last few months. Centered in the Kansas Federal District Court, these are cases filed against the major oil companies by everyday consumers who have been shortchanged at the pump by deceptive business practices. Essentially, when the temperature of motor fuel rises, the fuel expands and becomes less dense. As a result, when a consumer fills his or her gas tank with hot fuel, he or she gets less energy in each lower density gallon purchased. The oil companies know this, and know that they profit from the sale of hot fuel – that’s why motor fuel sales at every step in the distribution chain are adjusted to account for temperature variations, with the sole exception of the final sale to the retail consumer. The good news for consumers is that recent settlements reached with a number of oil companies should go a long way towards correcting these inequities.
The Plaintiff’s Steering Committee has recently obtained preliminary court approval of numerous settlements with the Defendants in this litigation, including BP, Casey’s, CITGO, ConocoPhillips, Dansk, ExxonMobil, Sam’s, Shell, Sinclair, and Valero. Some of these settlements mimic the recently approved Costco settlement, whereby the Defendants will be required to begin phasing in the installation of retail dispensers that automatically compensate for variations in the temperature of fuel. Major oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon must establish separate settlement funds that will reimburse retailers for the cost of installing temperature compensating pumps, in addition to helping state weights and measures departments defray the cost of adjusting their various regulatory regimes to accommodate temperature compensation. These settlements are extensive in scope, and affect motor fuel sales in the hottest 29 states/jurisdictions throughout the country.
Getting to this juncture in this litigation was not easy – these hard-fought settlements come on the heels of almost six years of battling against some of the largest corporations in the world. These Defendants have employed scorched earth tactics since the very beginning, attempting to overwhelm the Plaintiffs with extensive motion practice, massive discovery and the production of millions of documents. A year ago, the Defendants attempted to derail the MDL, albeit unsuccessfully, by filing over 200 motions for summary judgment all at once. Lawyers from our firm prepared responses to nearly 40 of these motions.
There are currently more than twenty five cases pending in twenty remaining states in the MDL, in addition to several hundred pending motions for class certification and summary judgment. The parties recently submitted their respective plans for dealing with these cases, and the court is expected to rule at any time. If you would like additional information on the Hot Fuel MDL, contact Parker Miller, a lawyer in our Toxic Torts Section, at Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com.
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