KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Another SOL distributor is suing the fuel company over a claim of undelivered fuel, the second such lawsuit since February.
Joycelyn DeFreitas of Golden Rock Investments Ltd. in North Union wants “compensation for 9,382 gallons of gasoline which the defendant never delivered to the claimant’s facility”, according to the claim — 124 of 2012, filed on April 17.
DeFreitas’ lawyer, Jomo Thomas, is seeking on behalf of his client damages for SOL’s “continued pattern refusal to correct what it knew was an inaccurate system of measurement”.
The claimant also wants SOL to pay damages for “the times when the Claimant had closed its operations so as to allow the Defendant to dig up its business premises in search of a leak the Defendant knew that was not there”.
The claimant is also asking the court of award damages “for loss the Claimant suffered for building and having to dismantle the wooden structure it built on the property” and damages for “the competition the Defendant created when it started to supply fuel to another station a short distance away from the Claimant’s station”.
The claimant is also asking the court to award cost and “any or all other relief the Court may deem just and proper”.
According to the statement of Claim, DeFreitas owns and operates the Golden Rock Service station for more than 25 years.
DeFreitas’ gas station has a storage facility owned by SOL, that can hold about 5,600 gallons — 3200 gallons of gas and 2400 gallons of diesel.
SOL measures and gauges the amount of fuel it delivers to the service station by a dipstick, each inch of which supposedly denotes a certain number of gallons of gasoline poured into the storage tank, the claim says.
But the claimants say that the measuring implement “is notoriously inaccurate and the Defendant has had caused to recalibrate the measurement on more than one occasion and each recalibration agrees on a different reading.
The Defendant recalibration also gives different readings on what in the industry is term dead stock — the volume of fuel that remains in the tank at all times — at one such time.
DeFreitas first detected the problem with the amount of gas being short in 2008 and called it to the attention of John Jacobs, SOL’s Sales and Marketing Representative, according to the claim.
However, the problem dates back as far as 2004, the court document says.
The problem has also been brought to the attention of operations supervisor, Bertram Walker, Trainee Internal Auditor, Estelle Gibbs, General Manager, Steve Francis and the SOL’s Chairman, Sir Kyffin Simpson.
According to the claim, SOL, for years disregarded and paid no attention to the claims of shortage by DeFreitas
From March 2 to 23, DeFreitas closed down the gas station as SOL dug up the premises to check the lines for a leak, but no leak was found.
In February 2012, after DeFreitas dispatched a letter to Sir Kyffin Simpson at the SOL Barbados office, the office sent auditor Estelle Gibbs who found in discussion with DeFreitas, found no faults with the DeFreitas’ operations.
Gibbs submitted a ten-page report to the head office.
DeFreitas says she cannot account for and has lost more than 9, 382 gallons of gas between 2008 and February 2012 and says that the fuel that SOL says it delivers never adds up to sales at the pump, which are always short and the shortage cannot be explained by evaporation since 2004.
The claimant’s mark up on a gallon of fuel is EC$0.60 “and this volume of loss, resultant on the failure of the Defendant to deliver the quantity of gas it is contracted to deliver is sending the Claimant into financial ruin and bankruptcy,” the claim says,
“The Claimant is convinced that the Defendant’s means of measurement for gas delivered to its facility is woefully inadequate, notoriously inaccurate and is decades behind the industry standards.
“The Defendant has steadfastly refused to install the more scientifically accurate sensing meters and to place meters on trucks that would give amount of fuel being delivered as in the other parts of the region,” the document further states.
In 2006, DeFreitas built a wooden structure on her property costing about EC$50,000 to augment commercial activity.
In 2006, the SOL demanded that the structure be dismantled “on the spurious ground that it was constructed on the fuel tanks.
“To coerce the Claimant into removing the wooden structure, the Defendant stopped the delivery of fuel for two weeks adversely affecting the Claimant’s business,” the claims said.
DeFreitas “reluctantly dismantled” the structure at the approximate cost of EC$2,500 and in September 2010, SOL began supplying fuel to another gas station about two miles, or 15 minutes drive from the DeFreitas’ station. The sales of fuel at DeFreitas’ service station fell by twenty percent as a result of the competition, the claim says.
In January, Christiana Thompson, the operator of the service station in Chateaubelair, sued SOL for, among other things, “damages for [SOL’s] decision to cut off the supply of fuel to [her service station] thus killing off her business”.