Judge denies City of Shreveport's motion to stop water overbilling lawsuit

Judge denies City of Shreveport's motion to stop water overbilling lawsuit

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A class-action lawsuit filed against the City of Shreveport alleging thousands of customers were overbilled for their water will be allowed to move forward.

The lawsuit, filed in March, claims the city over-billed as many as 65,000 customers by tens of millions of dollars on their water and sewer bills over the past 10 years.

The city asked for a class action suit filed on behalf to be thrown out, arguing that there was no legal validity to the claim.

A Caddo Parish judge rejected that request on Monday, according to Jerry Harper, who is an attorney representing the sewer customers in the suit.

"For the second time, the City has been sued in relation to improper water and sewer billing; and, for the second time, the ruling has been against the city," Harper said in a statement released shortly after the ruling Monday.

"The Mayor is charting a very dangerous and expensive course, using hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to avoid paying taxpayers back for the amount that the City overcharged them for water and sewer; and, the City seems to be doing so in order to avoid taking responsibility for the city's unlawful billing practices," Harper said.

Read the full statement here.

The errors in billing were brought to the city's attention by Shreveport businessman Scott Pernici and business partner Michael Wainright in 2015, who later sued the city for breach of contract over an agreement in which they claim the city agreed not to share the details of the underbilling with anyone else and to pay them compensation for uncovering the issues.

In January, Caddo District Judge Ramon Lafitte refused the city's motion to have that suit thrown out.

In May, the City of Shreveport fired the company contracted to update the city's water and sewer billing system and filed suit, claiming the company is responsible for more than $1 million in lost revenue due to errors that led to customers being billed incorrectly.

Pernici and Wainright filed a new lawsuit in March 2017 accusing the city of defamation and seeking damages. That lawsuit claims Tyler and other city officials used terms in statements made in public that referred to Pernici and Wainright's actions that included terms like "extorted," "blackmail," and "shakedown." That lawsuit was thrown out in May.

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