21-State Class-Action Lawsuit Against CBL for Inflated Electricity Bills Heads to Trial
Attorneys are gearing up to take the case to trial in April 2019.
FORT MYERS, Fla. – A class-action lawsuit filed by Hagens Berman and Buckner+Miles against CBL & Associates for allegedly overcharging its mall tenants for electricity is quickly ramping up to trial, after a federal judge in Florida certified the class of small business tenants, denied CBL’s motion for summary judgment and set the case for an Apr. 1, 2019 trial calendar.
The lawsuit states that CBL’s tenants have been victim to a “criminal enterprise” in which CBL knowingly overcharged its mall tenants for electricity by up to 100 percent.
The notice of civil cases for trial sets a trial date of Apr. 1, 2019 at the U.S. District Courthouse for the Middle District of Florida in Fort Myers. Exhibit and witness lists are due by both parties in March.
According to the lawsuit originally filed in March 2016, CBL promised its small business tenants that their electricity charges would not exceed what CBL was charged by local public utilities for the electricity the tenants actually used, but CBL breached its own lease agreements – and state law – by inflating both the electricity rates charged and the amounts of electricity used by tenants.
In U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson’s recent order certifying the class, he called CBL’s objections “specious” and denied CBL’s attempts to strike expert witnesses chosen by attorneys representing the mall tenants.
“According to Plaintiff, CBL and Valquest intentionally engaged in a scheme to inflate both the usage and the rate for that usage. Indeed, Plaintiff cites to evidence that Valquest and CBL knew what they were doing was wrong and potentially illegal,” the order states. CBL hired Valquest to prepare estimates of electricity usage (called “Valquest Surveys”) for its tenants, and based its bogus electricity charges on those surveys, according to the allegations in the complaint.
The lawsuit details alleged racketeering and a conspiracy between CBL and Valquest, in violation of the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO), as well as violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and Florida’s Civil Remedies for Criminal Practices Act.
The suit seeks relief for all individuals and entities that leased mall space from and paid monthly energy charges to CBL and whose electricity charges were determined based on a Valquest Survey.
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