It would be difficult to argue against the idea that anybody can sue anybody for anything. My neighbor could sue me for driving a 1990 Volvo because it was made in Sweden, and the blue and yellow Swedish flag makes him dizzy. Connecting dots to the absurd is the basis for many lawsuits. However in other lawsuits, connecting the dots is simple and obvious. The City of Naperville seems to be a magnet for those types of lawsuits.
Last Monday, November 30, a lawsuit was filed, by Miami, Florida based Atlas IP, in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, against the City of Naperville and its Department of Public Utility, alleging Smart Meter patent infringement. That’s one of those ‘easy-to-connect the dots’ lawsuits. Oops on the part of Naperville city officials; somebody dropped the ball of due diligence.
It seems to happen a lot. Lack of attention to detail, along with unintended consequences for decisions that are not always thoroughly thought out by Naperville decision makers. This is about the time, that all those who could have and should have caught the error, run for cover. In the past, demonstrating accountability, and managing execution have not been strengths of city officials.
In this case, the City has very limited financial exposure, because it is indemnified by the supplier and their insurance company. We live in a litigious society, so again law suits are not uncommon. However that doesn’t negate due diligence on the part of city officials. Most professionals have insurance, but that doesn’t mean they can practice recklessly.
In fairness to the current city council, six of the eight members were not in office when the oversight occurred, and the mayor is new in position. So who should be held accountable; who wasn’t paying attention. The list isn’t that long. It includes the following possible culprits:
- City manager Doug Krieger who orchestrates and oversees all the actions of department heads and city staff. He’s like the manager of a baseball team. It’s his job to make sure things get done, efficiently and properly. Krieger pushed hard for the quick installation of Smart Meters. So quick in fact, that he was willing to have home owners arrested, if they protested the forced installation of those meters on their homes. That action in itself, resulted in a lawsuit by a home owner against the City, and the home owner won in court, costing the City (residents) a six-figure settlement.
- Director of Public Utility-Electric, Mark Curran. He’s in charge of Naperville’s electric utility and was ‘expert’ on Smart Meter usage and technology. He was also hell-bent on making sure those meters were quickly installed. Speed over due diligence is not a wise idea.
- The legal department which has the responsibility of making sure the ‘i”s are dotted and the ‘t’s’ are crossed. It’s their job to make sure the City of doing everything legally. The city attorney who was in charge at the time of the Smart Meter fiasco is no longer employed by the City.
- Holdover city council members Judith Brodhead and Paul Hinterlong who put their names on the line with a ‘yes’ vote for Smart Meter technology. Apparently neither questioned whether or not what they were voting for was 100% legal.
- The previous city council, which had a patent attorney at the dais. And now the City is being sued for patent infringement. How ironic.
- Current Naperville city council member John Krummen, an engineer by vocation and self-proclaimed advocate for attention to detail, was a Smart Meter ‘ambassador’ (bugle boy and flag carrier) for Smart Meter technology.
- City staff, somebody must have been assigned the duty of making sure all the ducks were in a row, with regard to Smart Meter hardware and software.
When all the dust settles with this lawsuit, nobody will be held accountable, the City will be liable for financial ‘royalties’ to the Florida based company, and city officials will build this expense into the next electric rate increase. End result, Naperville residents and businesses lose again.
Don’t mean to beat a dead horse but this Smart Meter program is the gift that keeps on stealing from the citizens and business electric users. There are more law suits unresolved and an active one dealing with their right to install them in the first place in Federal Court. The thorny issue of fires and in some cases death which may be tied to these meters could also result in significant law suites.
Lastly the 7% or more rate increase about to go through is in large part due to this wasted 22 million plus 3 million overrun project and suits settled and yet to be adjudicated. As usual no one is held accountable (city manager for starters). We should sell the electric company to people who know what they are doing and it sure isn’t these keystone cops.
As this article points out is it very easy to get named in a law suit these days. The argument that city management and staff failed to do due diligent in this situation simply falls flat on it face. It is impossible to verify that any company manufacturing a product today is not infringing on someone’s patent, so hard in fact a lot of companies have stop trying and simply get insurance to cover any possible liability. The very fact that these meters were manufactured over 2 years ago and this company is only now getting around to filing a suit tells you how long it took this company to determine they had a patent infringement case.
The reality is there is a cottage industry in filing technology based patent infringement suit. There are companies that were created for the sole purpose of purchasing technology patents and then hiring people to start trolling tech company products to see if they have ground to file an infringement case. These company generally do not intend to go to court but are looking for a quick settlement, which the insurance companies are usually willing to do, to avoid possibly greater liability exposure. This, by all appearance, is the case in this suit.
Implying city management or staff incompetence on these grounds is like blaming a crime victims for not being more diligent in protecting themselves.