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City Hall Files Demurrer To Class Action Suit Seeking Consumer Rebates for LB Utility's Natural Gas Rates

City Hall filing contends complaint as stated doesn't entitle plaintiffs to relief; we post pertinent portions of City's court documents

(Initial post July 27, 2001 11:50 p.m., updated July 28) -- In response to a class action lawsuit seeking over $38 million in rebates for LB customers of City Hall's natural gas utility, the LB City Attorney's office has filed a Demurrer, a legal document contending, in essence, that the plaintiffs' complaint doesn't state a valid legal basis for relief.

In the public interest, (which has previously posted the plaintiffs' complaint) posts pertinent portions of City Hall's Demurrer in pdf form on a link, below.

The Demurrer lists three Deputy City Attorneys (Daniel Murphy, Carol Shaw and J. Charles Parkin) and City Attorney Robert Shannon as counsel of record.

Demurrers don't admit or deny allegations in a complaint, but contend that even if the complaint's allegations were true, the plaintiffs (in this case, LB residents who sued on behalf of LB consumers) deserve nothing from the defendants (incl. the City of LB) and the complaint should be dismissed.

Readers may note that in this case, the city's demurrer does deny the complaint's central allegations (consistent with the position the city has repeatedly taken publicly) although from a litigation standpoint this is not quite the same thing as filing a sworn answer denying the allegations.

This demurrer -- and any demurrer -- assumes the allegations are true, and argues that even if they are true, they provide no basis for relief. The city's demurrer includes a request (apparently accompanied by voluminous documents) that the court take judicial notice of natural gas commodity rates charged by the City of LB compared to other Southern California utilities, arguing in effect these show there can't be a basis for relief because there was no failure to comply with City Charter section 1502 and the city did comply with it.

A court hearing will now be held (scheduled for August 23 in L.A. Superior Court) and a judge will decide if City Hall's Demurrer is well founded or not.

If the judge overrules the Demurrer, City Hall would be faced with having to file a sworn answer, admitting or denying the complaint's allegations under oath. (If the demurrer is overruled, the city could seek an extraordinary writ for appellate review, but they're rarely granted and wouldn't extend the city's time for answering.)

If the judge sustains the Demurrer, the order could be either "with leave to amend" (letting plaintiffs amend the complaint to try to cure any inadequate allegations) or "without leave to amend" (plaintiffs can't amend the complaint because the legal defects can't be fixed, resulting in dismissal of the complaint)

City Hall lists several grounds for is Demurrer and asks that it be sustained without leave to amend. The Court could sustain or overrule the demurrer as to some of the complaint's causes of actions or to the entire complaint.

Readers can view pertinent portions of the LB City Attorney office's filing in pdf form by clicking on City Hall Demurrer.

[We have omitted voluminous attachments and exhibits; our posted pdf file, just a portion of what was filed by the City, is 16 pages, roughly 2 MB].

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