Judge dismisses East Ridge fireworks lawsuit

Judge dismisses East Ridge fireworks lawsuit

October 31st, 2012 by Rachel Bunn in News

A Tennessee Court of Appeals judge ruled Tuesday that there is not enough evidence to move forward with a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of a state law allowing the sale of fireworks in East Ridge.

In his opinion, Judge Charles D. Susano Jr. affirmed a lower court's ruling that residents and retailers failed to prove harm caused by the stores and dismissed the lawsuit, sidestepping the issue of the law's constitutionality.

"It is sheer speculation to say that some hypothetical fireworks store will impact the [citizens'] business, or lower their property values, or raise their insurance rates," he said.

East Ridge residents and regional retailers said in their lawsuit that the law, which went into effect July 1, permits illegal competition, and that the sale of fireworks will diminish quality of life in the city.

The law allows for the sale of fireworks in the city of East Ridge, despite the fact that a previous Tennessee law bars the sale of fireworks in counties with a population of more than 200,000. Hamilton County's population is 336,000.

"This isn't a case where the citizens of East Ridge and their elected officials made a decision about their health and safety," said Jeff Yarbro, attorney for the residents and retailers. "This was a decision by the state that applies different safety standards to the city of East Ridge than any other city in the state."

Yarbro said the court's ruling was disappointing, but that the group is reviewing the case and may appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The city of East Ridge is pleased with the outcome of the ruling, according to City Manager Tim Gobble, because of the economic benefits the stores may give the city.

"We wanted to give a shot in the arm to the economy," Gobble said of allowing the businesses. "We're pleased to have the four retailers that are here."

Contact staff writer Rachel Bunn at 423-757-6592 or rbunn@timesfreepress.com.