Mobile’s Solid Waste Authority has lost what will likely be its last appeal of a nearly $6 million verdict against it in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The authority had asked a three-judge panel with the court to review the case on several grounds, including whether the federal court had proper jurisdiction, during oral arguments in Montgomery late last month. The court affirmed the verdict in favor of Waste Management Mobile Bay Environmental Center in an order released Friday, Dec. 2. The authority’s only recourse now would be to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On the jurisdiction issue, the court found that since the trial attorneys for the authority admitted to proper jurisdiction at that time, it was inappropriate to bring up the issue on appeal.
“The authority has offered no reason, much less a compelling reason, why the authority should not be held to that factual admission, especially after a full jury trial and entry of final judgment in the district court,” the order states.
In oral arguments, authority attorney Bert Jordan stated that the authority was an arm of the state — not a citizen — and therefore could not be sued. In its order, the court disagreed.
“As to the arm of the state issue, we conclude that the authority’s arguments have no basis in the law or the facts relevant to this case,” the order states. “The authority can sue and be sued in its own name. The authority can enter into contracts, agreements, leases and other instruments as necessary to accomplish its goals … ”
Additionally, the court argued the authority is a corporate body and can also acquire and hold real property.
“Given the authority’s broad powers and the lack of control over the authority by the State of Alabama, we conclude that the authority is not an arm of the State of Alabama as a matter of law,” the order states. “The authority is thus a citizen for purposes of diversity, and the district court had jurisdiction to decide this case.”
Pete Riehm, authority chairman, did not return a call seeking comment for this story, but previously told Lagniappe that the authority has no assets and would likely be forced to pay the lawsuit through 5 percent royalties it receives from Waste Management for use of the Chastang Landfill.
Authority in-house attorney Chuck Miller did not return a call seeking comment.
One of the issues discussed at the breach-of-contract trial was that Waste Management was losing a portion of the waste stream it was entitled to because of the city’s contract with Dirt Inc. for yard debris.
Before the appeal was presented to the court, the Mobile City Council extended a one-year contract with Dirt Inc. to continue that service. At the time, Executive Director of Finance Paul Wesch said the move would save the city money. There’s no word yet on how the suit will impact that agreement.
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