A story in Tuesday's editions about a Supreme Court action in a case involving former British Petroleum dealers in suburban Maryland incorrectly named BP's owner. The corporate parent is Standard Oil Co. of Ohio. The Washington Post regrets the error.
The Supreme Court yesterday denied a plea by 10 former independent British Petroleum dealers in suburban Maryland to review a ruling that deprived them of a $600,000 fraud award from the company and Standard Oil of Indiana. BP's owner.
The action - taken without comment - leaves standing a Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the dealers were not owed the money because they had not proved they had been damaged by relying on BP's broken promises to go on renewing their one-year franchises.
A federal court jury after hearing present and former BP officials give uncontradicted testimony that they intentionally had deceived the dealers with the knowledge of top management, awarded them $1,265 million. The trial judge termed the sum "grossly excessive and shocking to the conscience," and cut it in half. The Fourth Circuit wiped it out.
The case arose from a decision by BP to halt severe losses in Washington metropolitan area marketing operations by converting certain stations to a no-frill, low-price Gas & Go setup.
The company set a conversion target date of September 1973, and notified the 10 independent dealers, that, contrary to past assurances, their franchises would not be renewed. The dealers, rejecting offers to become Gas & Go managers, sued under federal antitrust and Maryland fraud and deceit laws. Meanwhile, they obtained an injunction delaying conversion until February 1976.
The trial judge directed a verdict for BP and Sohio on the antitrust count, saying that Bp and Gas & Go station managers , as employees, were free to control retail prices.