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The city of Billings is challenging the class action status a judge granted in April on a lawsuit over fees collected on water, wastewater and solid waste services.

Billings filed its opening brief challenging the class Aug. 16.

In April, Cascade County District Court Judge Gregory Pinski, who is handling the Yellowstone County case, granted class action status to the plaintiffs. That grew the claimant pool from seven Billings residents to roughly 35,000. 

Billings started charging the fees in 1992 — 4% for water and wastewater services and 5% for solid waste disposal services. The city ended the practice last summer.

Attorneys for the city now argue the case should not have received class certification because it doesn’t meet the legal requirements. The city is asking the Montana Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

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Some of the claims allowed by the April ruling are barred by a statute of limitations, the city argues. 

The city also maintains its rate setting was protected by legislative immunity. Montana law prohibits a governmental body, such as the Billings City Council, from being sued over the policies it sets. 

The lower court judge wrongly rejected that argument, the city believes.

The city also continues to argue the fees issue is moot because the city ceased the practice in 2018.

The city’s brief was filed in August. The plaintiffs — Terry Houser, Terry Odegard, Roger Webb, Mae Woo, Kathryn Zurbuchen and Tom Zurbuchen — have yet to respond.

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Gazette reporter Rob Rogers contributed. 

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