Jury awards Driver $705k
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Trucker sues Flying J over false accusations…
From the 12/01-1/02 Issue of Landline Magazine®    pp 46

It’s been almost a year since truckdriver Michael Stamathis was arrested and accused of stealing fuel at the Flying J Travel Center in Wytheville, VA. Now, he is suing Flying J and the employee who had him arrested. Stamathis filed the lawsuit in federal court Oct. 25 against Flying J Travel Plaza and David L. Hansen, the employee who Stamthis says accused him of stealing and using drugs. Stamthis, of Maryland, says he was defamed, maliciously prosecuted and not allowed to do his work because of the arrest. He is asking for $600,000 in damages. Stamathis says he pulled into the truckstop at exit 77 off Interstate 81 and I-77 around 7:55 pm on Dec 18 and waited with the other trucks backed up to the ramp waiting to get fuel. It was 8:10 pm when he finally pulled up to the pump and inserted his fuel card into the pump card reader, which accepted his card. He put in his frequent fueler card, but it was denied. When the pump did not work, Stamathis called the fuel desk using the pump-side phone and gave the fuel clerk his identifying information. After fueling his truck, Stamathis moved his truck so other drivers could get to the pumps. After not finding a parking spot in the truckstop lot, he finally parked at the Citgo convenience store next door, like many other drivers do. As Stamathis retrieved his shower bag and clean change of clothes, a sheriffs deputy arrested him. According to Stamathis, he told the officer he had not stolen any fuel and was on his way back to Flying J after parking his truck and getting his shower bag. As he explained the problems he had with the fuel card reader, Hansen from the Flying J came over and insisted the officer arrest Stamathis for stealing fuel. Stamathis was handcuffed, taken to the police station, charged with petty larceny for stealing 100 gallons of diesel fuel and then released on his own recognizance. Stamathis says in addition to calling the sheriff’s office, Hansen also called Stamathis’ employer (J-Mar Trucking in Alabama) and told a dispatcher Stamathis had left without paying for fuel and was on drugs. Additionally, he told the dispatcher the sheriff had taken Stamathis for testing. Hansen then went to the sheriff’s department, filed a criminal complaint and suggested the deputy perform a drug test on Stamathis. While Stamathis was being booked at the sheriff’s office, his fuel purchase was being processed back at the Flying J. In March, the criminal complaint was dismissed after he produced the fuel card transaction report with the date and time Flying J processed the payment. Stamathis also says he feels betrayed by J-Mar. Before charges were dropped, Stamathis said he complained all the way up to J-Mar’s vice president with no results. Stamathis believes his employer’s lack of support is fueled by their alleged fuel contract with Flying J. Stamathis has since left the company.