Shared from the 4/1/2018 Hot Springs Sentinel Record  eEdition

City pays out 29K to settle lawsuit

Hot Springs and the Arkansas Municipal League paid out $58,095, including $40,000 in attorney fees, from the $110,000 fund they established to settle a class-action lawsuit filed last year against the city’s false alarm ordinance.

They’re each responsible for half the payout, or $29,047.50, Municipal League attorney Michael A. Mosley said. The city finance department said the city’s half will be paid from General Fund balances.

More than 30 of the 255 class members filed claims, with 32 receiving payments. A $125 claim is still pending. Claimants received $17,595 from the fund, but the bulk of the payout went to the attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the class and lead plaintiff ABC Block & Brick. It received $500 for its role as class representative.

The remaining balance will be disbursed back to the city and Municipal League. Mosley said all of the eligible claims have been processed. March 14 was the submission deadline, according to the claim noticed mailed to class members in February.

“Unless there’s a claim that is somehow late in the mail, these are the final amounts,” Mosley said.

The class included businesses, churches and homeowners who were fined or who paid fines from Nov. 15, 2014, to Jan. 12 of this year as a result of the city’s false alarm ordinance. It imposed a $25 fine after five false alarms, increasing to $50 on the 11th offense and $100 on the 16th and each one after that.

The settlement invalidates any outstanding balances owed to the city and renders the ordinance null and void. City Attorney Brian Albright said last month that the city and Municipal League will work with the class’ attorneys on drafting a new ordinance that will include a definition for a false alarm.

The complaint class attorney Chris Corbitt filed in November argued the ordinance was vague, allowing the police department, in the absence of a clear standard enshrined in the city code, to determine whether an alarm was false. Property owners bore an undue burden under the ordinance, according to the complaint, making them solely responsible for false alarms when installation and monitoring companies and “acts of God” can also be at fault.

According to the complaint, false alarms account for 94 percent of all alarm signals nationwide.

Corbitt said Tractor Supply Co. at 2307 Albert Pike Road benefited the most of any class member from the settlement. It was fined almost $10,000 for 125 false alarms from 2015 to July 2017. Class action suits ABC Block & Brick is leading against Little Rock and Fayetteville’s false alarm ordinances are pending.

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