City of L.A. prevails in lawsuit brought by DWP customer at center of billing scandal

A former DWP customer whose lawsuit ultimately led to a FBI raid has lost his subsequent lawsuit against the city.
(Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the city by a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customer whose utility bill ultimately led to a tangled legal scandal and an FBI raid of City Hall.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips sided with the city of Los Angeles on Tuesday in DWP customer Antwon Jones’ lawsuit, which claimed a violation of his civil rights. The lawsuit was filed in December 2020.

Jones first sued the city in 2015 after he received a $1,374 DWP bill, far higher than what he normally paid for service at his Van Nuys apartment.


Jones hired New York attorney Paul Paradis, and ultimately became the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the city over the DWP’s faulty billing system. He received $5,000 for his role as class representative after the case was settled.

Federal investigators now say that city officials and Paradis took part in a scheme to quickly settle the class-action lawsuit on terms that were favorable to the city. Paradis and a top attorney who worked for City Atty. Mike Feuer have pleaded guilty to crimes connected to the lawsuit scheme and are awaiting sentencing. Two DWP officials, a former general manager and a cybersecurity chief, have already been sentenced.

Jones, who isn’t accused of wrongdoing, alleged in his 2020 lawsuit that the city attorney’s office concealed its knowledge of Paradis’ role in the scheme. He alleged that the attorneys covered up their misconduct, thus preventing the illicit behavior from coming to light until 2019.

The cover-up deprived Jones of his constitutional right to access to the courts, Jones’ lawsuit said.

“Because of the cover up, Mr. Jones was unaware of Paradis and the city’s malfeasance until after his claims were barred by the statute of limitations and the Government Claims Act. Thus ... by the time Mr. Jones discovered that he had been used to procure a collusive settlement and commit a fraud on the court, it was too late for him to exercise his right to access the courts and bring legal actions against them,” Jones’ complaint said.

The city argued in court filings that Jones’ claims lacked merit because the city didn’t cause Jones to lose his right to bring an underlying claim against Paradis and the city in state court.

“Plaintiff had plenty of time to bring his state-law causes of action. He just missed the deadline. The city did not cause plaintiff to lose his right to access the courts — plaintiff did,” city attorneys wrote in their motion for summary judgment.

Rob Wilcox, spokesman for the city attorney’s office, said Wednesday that the office is “pleased the court has dismissed this baseless and malicious lawsuit.”

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and believe it is fundamentally wrong,” said Jeff Isaacs, attorney for Jones. “We’re considering our next steps.”