MARIETTA, GA—Today, the state’s second and third largest counties filed a series of lawsuits in federal and state court against fifteen Georgia telephone service providers for failing to bill, collect, and turn over the proper 911 fees designed by state law to fund local 911 operations. The lawsuits seek to recover for Cobb and Gwinnett’s 911 systems more than $50 million for three years of alleged unpaid fees.
“These suits are necessary because the telephone service providers have a statutory and fiduciary responsibility under Georgia law to properly bill, collect, and remit 911 fees,” said Roy E. Barnes, counsel for Cobb and Gwinnett counties. “We believe, based on the evidence we have received, that responsibility has not been met. These monies need to be paid for the benefit of the counties’ 911 systems.”
Fifteen telephone service providers allegedly are misrepresenting the types and number of phone lines upon which the 911 fees are applied and are significantly under-billing customers, the suits say. The under collection of 911 fees for each line allegedly translates to a $9 million annual loss in Cobb County and an $8 million annual loss in Gwinnett County. The Counties contend these funds are necessary and should have been available for improvements to Cobb and Gwinnett’s 911 systems. The legislature approved the collection of these funds to support the critical lifesaving mission of 911 systems.
“The failure of these companies to pay their obligations could eventually result in the taxpayers of Cobb and Gwinnett counties picking up the bill. The taxpayers should not have to supplement this gap,” said Barnes.
Roy Barnes, John Bevis and Matthew Wilson of Barnes Law Group and David Worley and James Evangelista of Harris Penn Lowry are representing Cobb and Gwinnett Counties in the litigation. No taxpayer dollars will be spent on the litigation. If the lawsuits fail, neither county will owe legal fees.
The individual lawsuits are against major telecommunications carriers operating in each County, including BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC (d/b/a AT&T Georgia); Verizon Enterprise Solutions, LLC; Bandwidth.com CLEC, LLC; Broadriver Communication Corporation; Broadvox, LLC; CBeyond Communications, LLC; Charter Fiberlink – Georgia, LLC; Earthlink, LLC (and its subsidiaries Business Telecom, Inc. and DeltaCom, LLC); Inteliquent, Inc.; Level 3 Communications, LLC; Network Telephone, LLC; Peerless Network of Georgia, LLC; Windstream Communications, Inc (and its subsidiaries NuVox Communications, Inc. and Southern Digital); XO Communications Services, LLC; and YMax Communications Corp.
The lawsuits were filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, and the Superior Courts of Gwinnett County, and Fulton County.
The Barnes Law Group, LLC– www.barneslawgroup.com
Founded in 2003 in Marietta, Georgia, The Barnes Law Group, LLC, is anchored by former Georgia Governor Roy E. Barnes. The firm has received national recognition and distinction for its skill and advocacy on behalf of citizens and consumers. Although small in number, BLG’s legal team is comprised of dedicated talents that create a formidable group of trial attorneys in complex litigation matters. Collectively, BLG attorneys have recovered over $1 billion for consumers and injured plaintiffs.
Harris Penn Lowry LLP — www.hpllegal.com
Founded in 2006, Harris Penn Lowry LLP, handles large-scale litigation throughout the United States. With offices in Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., the firm’s partners are sought-after, highly skilled trial lawyers, who have gained impressive reputations for past trial work, including many multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.