The city of Mobile has spent nearly $200,000 in legal fees related to a state court fight between the Solid Waste Disposal Authority (SWDA) and Waste Management (WM) over legal possession of land next to the Chastang Landfill.
The city has made payments to three law offices with attorneys working on the case. The most money was shelled out to Burr & Forman ($142,734). Burr & Forman is the firm employing city attorney Ricardo Woods and is generally involved in all of the legal cases involving the city.
In addition to Woods’ firm, the city paid $42,288 to the firm of Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt and $6,846 to SWDA attorney Charles Miller and his firm.
The state court lawsuit is tangentially related to another lawsuit involving these same two entities brought in federal court in 2015. The federal suit, brought by WM over breach of contract, resulted in a nearly $6 million jury award against SWDA.
Since that time, WM has been using an 100-acre parcel of land to the west of Chastang Landfill, which both sides now claim rightfully belongs to them.
In previous federal court filings, WM asked for legal seizure of the property due to the outstanding balance remaining from the initial federal lawsuit. However, in more recent filings, SWDA has accused WM of trespassing on the land and disturbing it by removing cover dirt from the area. SWDA seeks a jury to award damages.
“The defendants’ actions of trespass include the physical ingress and egress of persons and equipment across the property line of the West Tract,” the complaint reads. “In addition, the defendants have caused the diversion of water to be directed upon the West Tract. Defendants’ trespass is continuing. Defendants’ trespasses are, and have been, intentional, willful, wanton and accompanied by malice, insult and contumely conduct, and with complete reckless disregard for the rights of the plaintiff.”
In addition to the trespassing, SWDA accuses WM in the suit of “conversion,” which is a charge related to the removal of dirt from, and damage to, the property.
“The defendants have converted, and continue to convert, large volumes of dirt and timber from the SWDA’s West Tract for their own use,” the suit reads.
In an answer to the state court complaint, attorneys for WM deny the trespassing claims and argue the 1993 contract was a predecessor entered into with the city and SWDA, which allows them to use the property until 2038. In a counterclaim against the city and SWDA, Waste Management argues the contract gave them dominion of the landfill and any permitted land. They argue all of the previous solid waste permits issued by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management through three administrations and a handful of “contract administrators” have shown the so-called West Tract property to be part of the larger landfill. This means, WM argues, they have the right to control the property in question.
The counterclaim also argues the promise of freedom from lawsuit brought by SWDA and the city, which was in the contract, has been broken.
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