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Verdict awarded over fuel shortchanging

Jill Dunn | November 23, 2010

A Texas jury returned a $30 million verdict against a store chain’s owner for providing less than a full gallon of fuel at 86 Houston-area stations.

On Nov. 9, Attorney General Greg Abbott described the verdict as upholding the state charge that SunMart chain owner Petroleum Wholesale defrauded diesel and gasoline buyers.

Petroleum Wholesale did not respond to a request for comment, but the Montgomery County Courier reported the company denied the state’s findings and plans to appeal.

In 2008, the Texas Department of Agriculture conducted a multi-county effort to inspect and test 1,701 fuel pumps at 86 SunMart stores. The agency determined 985 of these pumps were dispensing less than a full gallon of fuel.

While the inspections were ongoing, PW sent company personnel and third-party contractors to recalibrate pumps before state inspectors could reach all 86 locations.

The jury’s $30 million verdict was based upon consumer transactions and penalties per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Petroleum Wholesale is liable for $18,765 in restitution, $8,494 in civil penalties and more than $2.7 million in state fees.

The parent company also owns travel centers and convenience stores in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

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