Judge rules in favor of Missouri cities in class action lawsuit
Thursday, January 16, 2014
A federal judge has ruled in favor of more than 250 Missouri cities, including Jefferson City, in a class-action lawsuit filed by customers of AT&T Mobility.
The lawsuit claimed local franchise tax payments by AT&T violated both state and federal laws on taxes on Internet access services, which plaintiffs, led by Jefferson City resident Bert Kimble, claimed amounted to an Internet sales tax.
The ruling, which was issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey, stated the charges from AT&T were a result of accounting and billing errors by the company itself and the cities were not liable.
Michael Berry, a Jefferson City-based attorney who represented 83 of the defendants, said the customers were incorrectly surcharged by the company.
“AT&T basically miscalculated their payments and then miscalculated the surcharge to its customers,” Berry said. “The customers sued the cities to get the money back.”
Berry said he doesn’t believe AT&T will have to reimburse customers based on the ruling, though his focus was more on preventing the cities from having to pay any fees or reimbursements.
“To the larger cities, like a Jefferson City or a Columbia … there’s a substantial amount of money involved. It would have had a significant fiscal impact on the cities,” Berry said. “It’s a significant decision … it would have been challenging for Jefferson City and for a lot of other cities to make that reimbursement.”
Interim City Administrator Drew Hilpert said cities have been dealing with similar lawsuits and battles with cellphone companies throughout the years and the courts have tended to side with the cities.
“I’m very happy that we continue to be doing the right thing,” Hilpert said. “We believe justice was done.”
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