By Brett Clanton of The Montgomery Advertiser

A Montgomery-originated class action suit against cable giant Charter Communications which a federal court had been reviewing since December has been bounced back to a Montgomery County court.

Bonnie Hinson of Montgomery sued St. Louis based Charter last fall, claiming the company misrepresented its digital cable TV service to customers.

Hinson filed the suit in November 2002 in Montgomery County Circuit Court. But Charter said Hinson’s claims were a federal court’s to decide and, in December, had the case moved to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Coody disagreed, saying his court did not have jurisdiction to rule on the case, and remanded it to the county court in late May.

“Getting this thing remanded is a big victory for subscribers,” said Jay Aughtman who represents Hinson with Montgomery firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C. In the Montgomery court, Hinson will appear before a jury of her peers, Aughtman said, versus a jury selected from the eight counties in the middle district.

“Plus, the case will move much quicker,” he said.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey will hear the case.

McCooey is not awaiting Charter’s reply to allegations it defrauded customers by failing to deliver the digital cable service it advertised. Charter had, to this point, argued to have the case dismissed and has yet had to answer charges directly.

Montgomery’s Cappell & Howard law firm is representing Charter in the case, but calls to the firm seeking comment for this story were not returned.

Aughtman said the next key date in the case will be a class certification hearing, which he expects to happen nine months to a year from now. That hearing will determine the exact number of Charter customers affected by the case, or the “class.”

Charter claims 6.7 million customers in 40 states.

Aughtman said customers with grievances like Hinson’s could number into the hundreds of thousands.

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