Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AT&T Agrees to Mediate Lawsuit Class-Action Pact Sought by Aug. 15

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AT&T Agrees to Mediate Lawsuit Class-Action Pact Sought by Aug. 15

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Galnor, Times-Union staff writer

AT&T Broadband has agreed to begin mediation to settle a class-action suit filed in Jacksonville against the cable giant.

With that decision, depositions in the case are now on hold, as are two hearings, including one to certify the class as the approximately 1 million AT&T cable customers in Florida. The development should not impact a separate settlement in the works between Jacksonville and AT&T, City Hall's top attorney said yesterday.

Class-action attorneys and AT&T have set an Aug. 15 deadline to reach an agreement, and if nothing is resolved, the court proceeding would continue, said Norwood S. "Woody" Wilner, one of the attorneys in the class action. The suit alleges that AT&T breached its contracts with customers, overcharged for services and falsified performance reports to Jacksonville.

"This indicates that AT&T realizes they have to deal with the subscribers as well as the city, and that they realize we have documents in our possession that indicate they have not been in compliance with the city," Wilner said.

AT&T spokeswoman Maureen O'Neill declined comment, saying the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Wilner's staff will spend a few weeks determining a fair monetary figure for AT&T's customers, he said. Using average customer bills, Wilner had one formula that would equal a $168 rebate per customer -- totaling $33.6 million for Jacksonville's approximately 200,000 customers and more than $168 million for the 1 million Florida subscribers. But he emphasized "it's nothing but ideas right now."

The decision to try to keep the case out of the courtroom came a day after Wilner and other attorneys met with lawyers from AT&T and Comcast Corp. in Philadelphia, where Comcast is headquartered. AT&T and Comcast shareholders approved a $45 billion merger of the two companies last week and federal approval could come as early as this fall.

"Comcast is extremely concerned about the situation here," Wilner said. "They realize they will inherit this situation, and they don't want it hanging over their heads the way it is now. …

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