State's highest court could review BP class action lawsuit
A class action lawsuit involving Oregon gas stations heads to the state’s highest court. The lead counsel in the case says consumers were illegally charged at the pump.
The case started after a man noticed he was overcharged at an Arco gas station in southwest Portland. David Sugarman is the lead attorney on the case. He says it happened to two million customers who used a debit card at Arco stations in Oregon from 2011 to 2013. He says customers weren’t made aware of the $0.35 surcharge from British Petroleum or BP.
Sugarman says when the case went to trial, BP continued to illegally overcharge consumers, about 13,000 times a day. He says that went on until the trial ended in January of 2014.
The jury decided under the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act, that the customer was right in this case. BP was ordered to pay $400,000,000 to those customers, which comes out to $200 per person.
"Once that was done and a judgement was entered, BP appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals. And the Oregon Court of Appeals in May of this year fully confirmed that the trial and the result were correct under Oregon law," Sugarman says. "They confirmed the judgement is the legal language, but it basically just says, yeah, you followed all the rules, you did this right, the jury properly considered all the evidence and we give a lot of weight to their verdict.”
BP has now asked the Oregon Supreme Court to review the case. It’s completely up to the state court whether it will even review it and there’s no timeline or deadline on that decision. If the supreme court decides not to review it, the case could be closed at that point. Sugarman says BP could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. He says the odd thing about drawing out this case, however, is that judgments earn interest. Under Oregon state law, it’s 9% a year.
"This judgement is really, really big, right. $400 million is a lot of money. So if you do the math and you figure it out, it's actually costing $100,000 a day in interest. So if BP wins, of course, they don't pay anything and they don't pay the interest and so on. But, if they lose, the judgement has gotten a lot bigger over the time they've delayed,” Sugarman says.
Sugarman has been a consumer protection lawyer in Oregon for years and says it’s hard to know BP’s angle in this case. He says for now, they’ll just keep fighting and moving forward. In the meantime, he’s providing updates to the case via his Facebook page for those who are looking for more information.