Beverage distributors are expected to pay the state an estimated $6 million worth of unclaimed nickel deposits on bottles and cans by tomorrow. A Superior Court judge in Hartford has ruled against a temporary injunction sought by the beverage distributors.
Ever since the first bottle bill was passed in Connecticut beverage distributors have been allowed to pocket the deposits on bottles and cans that consumers don’t return. But last year state lawmakers approved a bill that gives the unclaimed nickels to the state. The distributors are arguing against what they call a “retroactive” taking of nickels deposited by consumers between December and April. They sought a temporary injunction until they had the chance to argue their case, something the judge denied.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal says the money consumers do not claim really belongs to taxpayers.
“This court clearly ruled this law is legitimate, valid and enforceable to provide money in unclaimed deposits to the state rather than sitting in the depositor pockets.”
But attorney James Robertson Jr., who represents 12 beverage distributors, is arguing the retroactive taking is a violation of his clients’ constitutional property rights, pointing to a similar case in Massachusetts where the court ruled in favor of the distributors. Robertson says although he didn’t get the temporary injunction he’ll continue to pursue the case.
“The judge did not want to intervene with an injunction at ths early stages of litigation because we now have a valid claim for money damages and she preferred to let the case proceed to a final judgment on that claim rather than intervening with an injunction.”
Robertson says he’s asking the court to issue a judgment on whether it’s unconstitutional for the state to take the money retroactively. Meanwhile distributors have already raised prices on beverages.