November 7th, 2012 Update – At the hearing today the judge came very close to dismissing the entire case Detroit Edison had brought against the Addison Township couple for changing their own meter. She suggested the possibility of a dismissal of the DTE case “without prejudice” that would leave the door open for Detroit Edison to refile its complaint in 6 months if they still felt that other developments (in the MPSC opt-out case) had not resolved the issue. The DTE attorney would not agree to this plan and the couple did not want a 6 month stay because they have no expectation that the MPSC case is going to resolve this dispute. In the end the judge decided to give Detroit Edison another month, until December 5th, to come up with a meter that would be acceptable to the couple and to resume normal meter reading practices. We now think there is a fair chance Detroit Edison will offer to put an analog meter back on the house as an interim solution, in order to avoid the jury trial the couple asked for, until the MPSC completes its opt-out case and enacts an opt-out plan. The earliest that could happen would be next May, though it could be much later if there is an appeal of the MPSC decision. If Detroit Edison shows no inclination to compromise then the Court, on December 5th, will likely order the case to proceed to trial.
November 7th, 2012, 10 am – Detroit Edison Smart Meter Case Coming to a Head – On this day there will be what is called a “Motion Hearing” in the case of Detroit Edison versus the couple from Addison Township, in the courtroom of Oakland Circuit Judge Shalina Kumar.
This hearing will likely determine whether or not the case will proceed to trial next March. The case was brought by the utility because the couple replaced what DTE is pleased to call a ‘smart meter’ with an analog meter. This they did because, they maintain, the device was both harmful and illegal, and they had exhausted all other remedies. At this hearing there will be four motions, three brought by the couple against Detroit Edison, and one by Detroit Edison seeking what amounts to a ‘time-out’ of the entire case. Here are the motions the judge is expected to hear and rule on:
(1) Motion for Summary Dismissal – In this one the couple are seeking to have Detroit Edison’s entire case thrown out because, they say, the utility never had any legal authority to install ‘smart meters’ on non consenting customers in the first place. There was, apparently, nothing in the MPSC approved tariff that ever authorized smart meter installation, nor was there any rule lawfully issued under the Commission’s rule-making authority.
(2) Motion to Allow Counter-Claim – In this one the couple is seeking an injunction against the utility to prevent the latter from terminating electrical service to the home for refusal to accept a ‘smart meter’. An earlier attempt to bring the counter-claim had been denied for highly technical reasons. The couple is hopeful that this second attempt will prevail. So far the utility has refrained from carrying out an earlier threat to disconnect power.
(3) Motion for Protective Order on Discovery – In this one the couple has asked the judge to limit the scope of a deposition to proper subject matter and to impose some conditions on the manner in which the deposition can be taken.
(4) Detroit Edison’s Motion for Stay of Proceedings – In this one the utility is asking the court for a time-out until next May in order that any decision made by the MPSC in the opt-out fee case can be considered, at least in part, as a basis for deciding this case. The couple will be opposing this stay in the belief that, whatever the outcome in the MPSC case, this case should be decided on its own merits and sooner rather than later.
Persons who would like to follow this case are encouraged to attend the hearing. We would also welcome comments from our readers in the “Comments” window below.