published Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Tennessee AG asks dismissal of fireworks suit

The Tennessee attorney general has asked a local court to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to stop East Ridge from selling fireworks.

Attorney General Robert E. Cooper filed his statement Wednesday in Hamilton County Chancery Court, the same day two of the seven people who brought the lawsuit decided to drop their case against the city.

In May, the state Legislature passed a law allowing fireworks sales in East Ridge. The lawsuit was filed in September by a contingent of fireworks retailers, East Ridge residents and local business owners, each of whom brought their own reasons for opposing fireworks sales in the city.

Cooper was requested by both parties in the lawsuit to assess the constitutionality of the law and does not make the final decision for the court.

The residents claimed the new law is detrimental to their safety and property values. Two fireworks retailers said the new law could hurt their businesses.

Both groups decried the law as unconstitutional, which Cooper denied in the documents filed Wednesday.

Cooper asked that the local court recognize that the plaintiffs "lack standing to bring this action, and order that the action be dismissed."

East Ridge's attorneys also submitted a response to the lawsuit Wednesday, denying allegations about the law's unconstitutionality and repeatedly stating that each plaintiff lacked standing to bring the suit.

The plaintiffs' attorneys, Jeffrey Yarbo and Christopher Varner, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. One of the city's attorneys, Keith Grant, declined to comment about the case.

Two East Ridge residents who were listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit decided to drop their cases Wednesday.

Roxie Davis, described in the complaint as a "grandmother and great-grandmother of children in East Ridge," and Davis' granddaughter Crissy Lawson both filed for "voluntary dismissal" for unstated reasons.

The remaining plaintiffs are Dennis and Karen Massengale and Carnell Storie. All say they are longtime residents worried that fireworks sales will disrupt their peace and safety.

For more than 50 years, state legislation barred fireworks sales in Tennessee counties with populations higher than 200,000 residents. Hamilton County has more than 336,000 people.

The fireworks retailers who filed the suit -- Marion-Bradley Fireworks Retailers and Wet Willy's Fireworks Supermarket of Tennessee Inc. -- claimed they structured their businesses for rural counties, and the East Ridge law "undermines the business model of these existing fireworks sellers."

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