Tinley Park water customer hits village with class action for not replacing faulty meters, overcharging residents

By Scott Holland | Sep 1, 2015

A Tinley Park resident seeks to initiate a class action suit against the village for failing to fix its smart water meters, and ultimately overcharging its residents and customers for their water.

Omar Jaber, represented by his attorneys, Larry Drury and John H. Alexander & Associates, filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court’s Chancery Division Aug. 26 regarding Tinley Park’s use of digital meters used to record water usage over the preceding decade. He alleges the village used the meters, made by Severn Trent Services, consistently asserting they “perform more accurately and are more efficient while knowing that the meters regularly overstate how much water has gone through them, resulting in overcharging residents.”

Further, Jaber asserts the village knew of the overcharging and still failed to “find and replace bad meters, did not fully refund residents who were overcharged, understate by at least half the number of overbilling meters it has documented and failed to keep detailed records on how thousands of meters have failed, making it impossible to determine the number of meters the village has discovered with a problem.”

As evidence, Jaber supplied a water bill from April 1 to June 30, 2015, a picture of the smart meter at his residence and a utility report reflecting her actual water usage. He alleges the evidence shows his water use has not increased substantially since 2006, but his bill has gone up significantly.

He also cites a 2015 Chicago Tribune investigative report outlining the village’s “knowledge and negligence.” That report explaining “the consistent problem of ‘spinning,’ a term that refers to how the readings on a meter climb higher and faster than they should.”

The Tribune report said the problems began in 2002 after Tinley Park installed its first smart meters, enough for 20 percent of the village. Despite being made aware of the problems, the village carried out plans to install meters for every home in Tinley Park.

In mid-2013, the village entered into a settlement agreement with Severn Trent based on equipment failure. Rather than replacing the failing meters, Severn Trent paid the village a $185,868 settlement fee and ended its contract with Tinley Park. Jaber also pointed out a part of the village website he claims contradicts the facts of its trouble with the smart meters.

The Tribune report quoted Acting Mayor David Seaman stating he was “aware, in general, of defective meters but had not heard of the extent of the problem.”

Though the village said it regularly conducted random tests of meters, the Tribune found it only recently started testing, and of 30 units, 18 revealed a meter overstating a flow measurement that violated industry standards.

Jaber suggests the class should include Tinley Park water customers whose property had a smart meter dating as far back as 2005. He said Tinley Park, rather than keeping its water customers apprised of facts regarding the meters, has “recklessly, wantonly, and willfully” concealed information.

In addition to certification as a class action, Jaber asked the court to find Tinley Park negligent and in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. He seeks establishment of a constructive trust consisting of money Tinley Park collected from water customers for purposes of reimbursement, and also wants the court to “order the immediate review, testing and replacement of all smart meters.”

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Organizations in this Story

Chicago Tribune John H. Alexander & Associates Larry D. Drury Ltd.

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