Five-year, $9 million lawsuit against Bloomfield Township comes to end

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The Michigan Supreme Court on July 7 denied hearing an appeal of the state Court of Appeals reversal of an Oakland County Circuit Court judgment of more than $9 million against Bloomfield Township in a class action lawsuit over municipal water and sewer rate setting. The case has been active in the Michigan court system for more than five years.

Prior to the Supreme Court denial, a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously voted January 9 of this year to reverse a judgment in excess of $9 million against Bloomfield Township.

“We are proud and gratified with the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision to deny hearing the appeal,” said Rodger Young, founder of Farmington Hills-based Young & Associates and the legal architect of the highly complex class action legal defense.  “The 38-page detailed opinion issued by the Court of Appeals was extraordinary thorough and set an important precedent for other municipalities and governmental entities. The Michigan Supreme Court recognized and acknowledged the outstanding work with their order.”

The case, which alleged overcharges to residents, was filed in April 2016 by the Royal Oak-based law firm Hanley Kickham.

During oral arguments and in submitted briefs, Bloomfield Township, through Young & Associates, demonstrated the trial court’s failure to presume that the municipality’s water and sewer rates were valid. The Court of Appeals ruled that proper deference was not given to Bloomfield Township. In order to overcome the presumption of validity, the plaintiff’s counsel was required to provide clear evidence of wrongdoing,
which they were unable to produce at an adequate level. Young & Associates successfully argued that the plaintiff only picked certain factors in the Township’s rate setting process which were beneficial to the plaintiff’s case and ignoring the overall rate model. The total amount of the judgement reversal was in excess of $9 million.

In addition to the reversal of the financial judgment, the Appeals Court judges determined that the trial court also was wrong in requiring the township to document its rate-making process in specific ways, according to Young.

Young, an Air Force veteran who formerly served as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, earlier praised township officials for holding firm throughout the case.

“They were convinced that their rate structure was sound and fair, and they maintained a stance throughout that they weren’t going to agree to any sort of settlement,” Young said. “They knew that doing otherwise would result in a catastrophic hit to their budget.”

Founded in 1991, Young & Associates is a compact litigation boutique that focuses on complex business litigation.

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