KBA Brought a Consumer Protection Class Action to Help Local Residents
KBA resolves a Maryland Class Action for local residents!
Last year, the residents at Bush River Manor Mobile Home Park began receiving water bills that seemed out of sorts. They complained in vain. They sought help from local government. As the Baltimore Sun reported, the problem stemmed at least in part from inoperable water meters. Because the meters did not work, residents were charged monthly using a formula. We believed this method was unfair for these residents, and it was illegal. Contrary to the article, however, the problem was no resolved.
A brave woman stood up to fight for her fellow tenants. After trying to resolve the matter privately, she filed a lawsuit. KBA partner Justin Browne had the privilege of representing her with co-counsel, Jane Santoni. They brought a class action lawsuit. The Class Representative alleged that rather than billing people based on their individual use, as required by their leases and the law, Defendants billed everyone based on a “ratio utility billing system” (“RUBS” hereinafter), a method used in shared-space properties like commercial office buildings. They did so without giving proper notice and in violation of the lease and Maryland statutes.
Defendants Fought the Class Action
The lawsuit was against the mobile home park, property manager, and water company that billed the tenants. The Complaint asserted several causes of action, including a violation of the Maryland Consumer Protect Act and the Mobile Home Parks Act.
The Defendants denied all allegations. They filed multiple motions to dismiss. The parties engaged in time-consuming discovery and significant lengthy settlement negotiations. KBA and its partner law firm spent almost 300 hours investigating the case, drafting pleadings, briefing oppositions to motions to dismiss, conducting and responding to discovery, drafting subpoenas duces tecum, reviewing hundreds of pages of documents, meeting and conferring to resolve discovery disputes, negotiating, and addressing issues necessary to effectuate settlement. It was a hard-fought battle with an incredible result for the Harford County residents making up the class action.
The Parties Reached an Outstanding Settlement
After substantial effort and advocacy on both sides, the Parties were able to resolve the lawsuit. The negotiations regarding the settlement stretched over several months and were argued with vigor. Defendants denied and continue to deny the allegations. Nonetheless, they did the right thing and resolve the lawsuit.
In the end, the class members will receive 100% of the water bills. That means that not only did they recover every cent they paid all those months, but in effect, they did not pay for any water for nearly a year. This was no coupon class action. It is an outstanding result, and far better than the pre-suit settlement offer made to them before the attorneys were involved. They also did not have to pay any attorneys’ fees.
The Court Appointed KBA Class Counsel and Approved the Settlement
After a year of fighting, negotiating, and filing motions with the Court, the settlement resolved. The Circuit Court for Harford County approved the settlement.
The Court’s Order recognized KBA as co-class counsel, awarded the attorneys over $70,000 in legal fees that the Defendants pay, which represents a mere fraction of the effort set forth. The Court also approved a cy pres distribution to Maryland Legal Aid, Northeastern Maryland Office and the Harford County Bar Foundation, organizations dedicated to helping people in need. The purpose of a cy pres award is to benefit class members and the public, indirectly, when the entire settlement fund cannot be returned directly to all individual class members. See McDaniels v. Westlake Servs., LLC, No. CIV.A. ELH-11-1837, 2014 WL 556288, at *11 (D. Md. Feb. 7, 2014).
In sum, this is a great outcome for our client and the local Maryland community!