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THE BUSINESS JOURNAL (FLORIDA): Gasoline companies to refund for broken gauges

Floridians who are among those whose automobile gas gauges broke after buying gasoline at a Shell or Texaco station last summer may be eligible for money back on repairs, missed work or other damages.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has ordered defendants including Shell Oil Co. and Motiva Enterprises to alert people who bought Motiva gasoline from certain fuel stations in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama from May 11, 2004, to June 2, 2004.
A proposed settlement calls for the defendants to pay people who submit valid claims for reasonable and necessary vehicle repairs, actual lost wages, incidental expenses and other damages.
People included in the settlement may send in a claim form to ask for a payment or they may exercise other legal rights such as asking to be excluded from or objecting to the settlement.
The deadline for exclusions and objections is June 30. The deadline to submit claims is Sept. 12.
Lawsuits began in May 2004, after it was discovered certain batches of Motiva gasoline were sold with some amounts of elemental sulfur and/or hydrogen sulfide.
Although the total sulfur content was below applicable governmental regulations, sulfur compounds can damage fuel sensors in some makes and models of cars and vehicles, causing gas gauges to break or malfunction.
Problems with gas gauges usually occurred within a few days after the gas was used or not at all, the court said.
The defendants deny they did anything wrong and the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or an indication that any law was violated.
Notices informing people about their legal rights are to be mailed and also are scheduled to appear in newspapers and other publications in states where the gas was sold and other states where evacuees from hurricanes Katrina and Rita are now located.
At a Sept. 6 hearing, the court is to consider whether to approve the settlement.
The court has appointed Ben Barnow, of Barnow and Associates in Chicago, and Don Barrett, of Barrett Law Office in Lexington, Miss., to represent the people included in the class action, as the co- lead settlement class counsel.
A toll-free phone number, (866) 314-5812, has been established, and a Web site, www.gasclaims.com, holds notices, claim forms, the settlement agreement and lists of qualifying gasoline stations and storage facilities.
Those affected may also write to Gas Settlement, P.O. Box 2007, Chanhassen, MN 55317-2007.

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