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St. Louis gas station owner could be forced to pay $5.6 million – for prices accused of being too low

St. Louis gas station owner could be forced to pay $5.6 million – for prices accused of being too low

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ST. LOUIS • A St. Louis gas station accused of cutting prices so far below cost that it ran a competitor out of business could now be forced to pay $5.6 million to that man via a rarely used Missouri law, the man’s attorney said Monday.

A price war between two other stations cost Christopher Westmoreland the gas station that has been in his family since 1968, his attorney Jeremy Gogel said Monday. The bank took the station, then sold it, but that still left about $500,000 unpaid on his business loan, Gogel said.

The station was the retirement plan for Westmoreland, who is in his mid-50s, Gogel said. He’s now driving a truck from Oklahoma to Chicago and back four days a week to try to pay off the lien against his home in Ballwin, Gogel said.

“He’s just trying to get by,” he said.

Gogel said that might now be easier after a recent jury verdict in his favor.

A St. Louis jury awarded Westmoreland $1.8 million in October after he and his attorneys said that Midwest-St. Louis LLC had violated the law by pricing gas below cost.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hogan ruled Nov. 30 that under the law, the jury’s award should be tripled. She also added in about $200,000 in attorney’s fees, for a total of $5.6 million.

Gogel cautioned that an appeal by Midwest was likely.

Westmoreland’s original suit, filed in St. Louis Circuit Court in 2015, says that Midwest, which does business as Gas Mart 6, began cutting prices at a station at 209 East Grand Avenue in 2012, ultimately driving Westmoreland’s Go West Mart gas station, at 6020 North Broadway, out of business.

Gogel said that the owners of Midwest had since bought Westmoreland’s old station.

Midwest’s attorneys denied that, and in court filings said Westmoreland couldn’t prove that the price cutting was aimed at injuring competitors. They said that Westmoreland blamed other stations, including a Love’s Travel Stop, in other, unsuccessful lawsuits. They also said that the demise of independent gas stations was part of a larger trend.

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