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Plaintiffs Represented by Zuckerman Spaeder LLP Win Major Appellate Victory in Case Challenging Oil Industry’s Deceptive Sales Practices

May 25, 2011

Zuckerman Spaeder LLP announced that it has won a pivotal appellate victory on behalf of retail purchasers of motor fuel in 27 states. The plaintiff class is suing major gasoline and diesel fuel retailers to reform the industry’s deceptive sales practice of selling “hot fuel”—or non-temperature adjusted motor fuel—in order to boost sales.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit recently denied the appeal by fuel companies and their trade associations seeking First Amendment protection from the production of their internal communications. Zuckerman Spaeder’s team, which includes managing partner Graeme W. Bush, partner Caroline E. Reynolds, and associate Jane M. Ricci, argued that these documents would prove the oil industry engaged in a conspiracy to prevent regulators from approving the installation of temperature adjustment equipment on gas pumps. The firm contended that the documents show the industry gave false and manipulative information to regulators, and failed to disclose information and studies showing that gas stations make more money from the sale of gas above 60 degrees because it has expanded and therefore contains less fuel content.

While the industry argued that allowing access to these documents would impair its First Amendment right to associate and petition the government, the 10th Circuit ruled across the board for the plaintiffs. The court denied the industry’s interlocutory appeal as unjustified under the Cohen, Perlman, and related doctrines, as well as its petition for mandamus.

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