Monday, August 16, 2010

Trash Haulers Win on 2 Counts in Partial Summary Judgment in First Trash Lawsuit Against County

Earlier this month, Judge Barbara Wallace of the Circuit Court of St. Louis County issued an order on the trash haulers (plaintiffs American Eagle Waste Industries, LLC et al.) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and St. Louis County’s (defendant) Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Stay Ruling on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

The court order is a major victory for the three trash haulers and yet another major blow to St. Louis County, as the county has not fared well in defending its controversial trash districting program in the courts.

The present case was filed in May of 2008 by three trash haulers; American Eagle Waste Industries, LLC, Meridian Waste Services, LLC, and Waste Management of Missouri, Inc. The county won dismissal of the case at the Circuit Court level. However, on appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision and ruled in favor of the trash haulers (October, 2008). Unsuccessful in its appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court, the St. Louis County Counselor moved the case into the federal court system in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Earlier this year, that court remanded the case back to the state court system in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, where it now resides in the court of Judge Barbara Wallace.

In her three-page order, dated August 5, Judge Wallace ruled in favor of the trash haulers on two of three counts, as follows:

Count 1: “With respect to the County’s Motion to Dismiss, the Court finds Plaintiff’s request for declaratory relief in Count I of the First Amended Petition is moot since the Court of Appeals has already ruled that section 260.247, RSMo., is a statute of general, statewide applicability which must be followed by the County. State ex rel. American Eagle Waste Industries v. St. Louis County, 272 S.W.3d 336, 343 (Mo.App. E.D. 2008).” This means that the state’s two-year notice statute is binding on the county, even though the county contends that its “charter form of government” makes the county immune.

Count 2: “As to Count II of the First Amended Petition, the Court finds Plaintiffs have stated a claim for breach of implied contract. Pursuant to section 260.247.2 and .3, prior to expiration of the two-year notice period, the County must use existing haulers and pay them what they would have made had they provided the service directly. It is this legal obligation on the part of the County that gives rise to the implied in law contract. County contends Plaintiffs’ claim fails as a matter of law because it received no benefit from Plaintiffs; however, the Court finds County was in fact benefited in that it fully implemented its trash collection program without having to pay the existing haulers.” Winning this count is a major victory for the trash haulers and a huge blow to the county in that it means that the county must pay the three trash haulers the money that they would have made during the two-year period that they were excluded, as a result of not winning any of the eight county trash district contracts. This ruling could ultimately cost the county (the taxpayers) millions of dollars, especially considering that the county will have to pay three haulers, one of which is a major conglomerate (Waste Management) that lost a huge number of accounts throughout unincorporated St. Louis County.

Count 3: “Finally, in Count III, Plaintiffs claim the County has implemented exclusive or monopoly trash hauling districts in unincorporated St. Louis County in violation of section 416.031, RSMo., of the Missouri Antitrust Law. The County takes the position it is immune from antitrust liability pursuant to section 416.041.2, RSMo, which provides that {n}othing contained in the Missouri antitrust law shall be construed to apply to activities or arrangements expressly approved or regulated by any regulatory body or officer acting under statutory authority of this state.” The Court recognizes that providing for the collection and disposition of trash is an authorized, state-regulated activity. American Eagle Waste, supra, 272 S.W.3d at 343. In addition to the authorization provided by section 260.247, RSMo., itself, governmental contracts for the collection of waste are authorized and anticipated in sections 260.215 and 71.680, RSMo. Procedural irregularities do not invalidate County’s underlying statutory authority to provide for trash collection.” The crux of this count is that the county did not violate the Missouri Antitrust Law.

In one of the final statements of her order, Judge Wallace stated that: “Accordingly, County’s Motion to Dismiss is DENIED as to Count I and II of Plaintiffs’ First Amended Petition and GRANTED as to Count III thereof.”

Even though the trash haulers have won a major victory in their Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, this case is far from being resolved in that the court has yet to rule on the monetary damages that the county must pay to the trash haulers. Once that decision is handed down, the county could file an appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals, and, ultimately, to the Missouri Supreme Court, which would result in delaying a final resolution by several more months. While this case is much closer to a final decision, there are three other trash lawsuits still pending in the state court system against St. Louis County.

If past precedent is any prediction of the future, the outlook for St. Louis County appears to be bleak.


  1. Anonymous6:11 AM

    The only people winning these trash wars, are the attorneys. They get paid either way, and the longer it drags out the better the pay day.

    This entire scheme was targeted politically to unseat Dooley in the November election.

    It may work.

    But, the trash districts are here to stay.

  2. Anonymous7:43 PM

    What does anyone really think is going to happen here?

    Slap on the wrist for the county, and maybe a fine, and that's it.

    Over and done with.

  3. Anonymous8:27 AM

    This entire process is a contrieved political plan to unseat Charlie Dooley.

    It's all about the politics on this Trash Dooley campaign.

  4. Anonymous9:38 AM

    A slap on the wrist when millions of taxpayers dollars are involved? You got to be kidding. The trash fiasco is just one of a number of fumbles this team has created. Dooley is only carrying out the directives of the County County and none of them are doing very well.

    The Council sits back and lets Dooley take the heat. We need leaders that act and not react.

    Do you agree?

  5. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Dooley will be the outcome of his own undoing.

    There is no leadership on the county council, they are all just followers.

  6. Anonymous11:24 AM

    Dooley has entrusted too much control to his team. People like Temporiti and Earls, and otheers have overstepped, and now Dooley will pay the price. But, he handed over the authority, so he will be paying the price.

  7. Anonymous10:37 AM

    The whole issue may be political but how any American can sit back and watch their freedoms taken away amazes me. The trash program is a communist program where the citizens had no chance to voice their approval or disapproval through a vote. The lawyer thing bothers me too but where else can we turn? Dooley sold my freedom of choice, he signed my name on a contract, indebted me without any authoity. In a free country it is just wrong. In a communist country it is an everyday occurance. Are we a free country or not? Stand up for your freedom. Don't be a coward. Support the resistance to communism in America.