Thompson’s Station residents’ lawsuit against Crystal Clear Technologies being tested by dismissal motions


Thompson’s Station residents’ lawsuit against Crystal Clear Technologies being tested by dismissal motions

Residents of three Thompson’s Station neighborhoods who have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nashville aimed primarily at a local telecommunications company, Crystal Clear Technologies, are bracing themselves for the long haul.

Residents of three Thompson’s Station neighborhoods who have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nashville aimed primarily at a local telecommunications company, Crystal Clear Technologies, are bracing themselves for the long haul.

Attorney Benjamin Gastel is representing residents of the Tollgate, Bridgemore and Canterbury neighborhoods who are seeking class action status for a complaint that alleges Crystal Clear Technologies is not an actual provider of telecom services, but rather contracted with DirecTV as an “unnecessary middleman,” charging a premium to homeowners for Internet and cable services and denying homeowners the ability to purchase cable or Internet from other market providers.

Currently, the plaintiffs are preparing to respond to several motions to dismiss before the court can rule on them.

“Assuming that we survive the Rule 12 motions to dismiss, I have counseled everybody to have patience,” Gastel said.

Named as a defendant in the complaint is Carbine & Associates, a company that the plaintiffs argue controls Crystal Clear, Tollgate Farms and Bridgemore Development Group. According to the amended complaint, all of the companies operate from the same business address and have the same registered agent, James Carbine.

However, the defense asserts they are independent entities, adding that Tollgate Farms and Bridgemore Development Group, not Carbine & Associates, are the developers of the Tollgate and Bridgemore neighborhoods respectively.

Other defendants in the case include the homeowners associations for each of the three neighborhoods, DirecTV and the Canterbury developer, Hood Development.

“The motion to dismiss which you’re hearing about is basically a motion in a civil case,” said Alex Fardon, co-counsel for Carbine & Associates, Crystal Clear, Bridgemore Development Group and Tollgate Farms. “And the basic concept is you say to the judge even if everything they say in the complaint is true, they don’t have a claim as matter of law, and it is not a viable lawsuit here. And that’s the nature of the motion to dismiss. That’s the argument – that the complaint doesn’t state a viable claim.”

Although he did not wish to address any of the specific allegations made against the defendants, Fardon said he believes the dismissal will be granted by the court.

Among other things, the suit claims the defendants violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the communications agreements were the products of self-dealing between Carbine and Crystal Clear.

According to the memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss filed by defendant Hood Development, the plaintiffs’ antitrust claims fail because “a residential development does not qualify as a ‘market’ under the Sherman Act.”

The defense is also arguing that the claim of self-dealing fails because it is based on the notion that Carbine is the developer of Tollgate and Bridgemore. Furthermore, according to the memorandum filed by Fardon and co-counsel Craig Gabbert, “self-dealing” is a label for a breach of fiduciary duty, which is not alleged in the plaintiffs’ complaint.

The Town of Thompson’s Station has voiced support for the plaintiffs since it was first filed in January, and members of the town’s Board of Mayor and Alderman are also residents in the affected neighborhoods.

At the Thompson’s Station board meeting on Jan. 12, Alderman Brandon Bell, a resident of Tollgate, suggested that the town counsel and town administrator help the board to draft the language for an amicus curiae brief, a friend of the court brief, in an effort to support the residents involved in the suit.

“I am ready to sign that letter right now,” said Alderman Graham Shepard, also a resident of Tollgate. “Not because I think that they are doing something unethical, because I know they are, but also because I think they are doing something illegal, and that’s what that suit is all about. That suit is, ‘you are violating the law.’ That’s what I believe and that’s why I’m willing to sign that letter.”

Gastel said none of the arguments made in the motions to dismiss are particularly shocking and he anticipates the case surviving them. The response from the plaintiffs is due on Monday, March 28.

“Apart from the customer experience and publicly available documents, we still don’t have too much of an insight into the internal correspondence of Crystal Clear, and more specifically some of Crystal Clear’s correspondence with DirecTV on how the arrangement was set up,”Gastel said.

Before the case continues and a case management hearing is set, U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger must issue an order on the motions to dismiss.

Quint Qualls covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Reach him at quint@springhillhomepage.com.

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