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Court Overturns Denial of Alltell Class Certification

(CN) - The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed an order denying class certification in a lawsuit challenging Alltel's early termination fees.

Peter Rosenow filed suit against Alltel Corp. and Alltel Mobile Communications after he canceled his cell phone service and was charged a $200 early termination fee.

Rosenow argued that the fee violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

But the trial court denied his motion for class certification, ruling that each case had too many individual components to proceed collectively.

Rosenow appealed this ruling, along with the trial court's refusal to strike expert testimony on the economic damages Alltel would incur if customers terminated service before their contracts expired.

The state high court reversed, ruling that the trial court had improperly focused on the merits of the case rather than concentrating on the issue of class certification.

"Conducting this merit-based analysis was an abuse of discretion," Justice Donald Corbin wrote.

For the same reason, Corbin overruled the lower court's decision to allow the expert's testimony.

"As it is improper to consider the underlying merits at the class-certification stage of proceedings, (the expert's) opinion was not relevant to the issue of whether a class should be certified," Corbin wrote.

The state Supreme Court remanded for a proper look at whether Alltel customers constitute a class with common interests.

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