Not much has changed in five years for attorneys representing Waste Management (WM) and the city’s Solid Waste Disposal Authority (SWDA).
Both sides found themselves in U.S. District Court in Mobile making similar arguments, and a jury came to a similar conclusion in the case, handing the manager of Chastang Landfill near Mount Vernon another multimillion-dollar award.
A jury found SWDA was responsible for paying WM a total of $2.8 million for the breach of a 1993 contract.
In a statement, WM attorney Jaime Betbeze, a Mobile resident, acknowledged this is the second time SWDA has been forced to pay for breach of contract.
“WM Mobile Bay Environmental Center is gratified with the jury’s verdict in this historic case,” Betbeze wrote. “Waste Management hopes to work with the city and authority leaders to resolve future issues without the need to resort to expensive litigation at the expense of the Mobile taxpayer. In the meantime, Waste Management will continue to operate the Chastang Landfill according to its contract with the authority and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
Just as in 2015, WM went to court asking to be reimbursed for expenses related to a change “in laws and regulations.” Under the terms of the 1993 contract, Betbeze successfully argued, SWDA is obligated “to reimburse” WM “for capital expenses and operational costs for the Chastang Landfill’s gas management system, [Mobile Area Water and Sewer System] surcharges for leachate pre-treatment and leachate analytical systems.”
The jury awarded WM reimbursement amounts over three years. For 2016, the jury awarded WM $110,362; for 2017, the jury awarded the company $135,589; and for 2018, WM was awarded $555,185.
A stipulation in the 1993 contract gave WM access to the city’s entire “waste stream,” which includes yard trash and construction debris, Betbeze argued. However, in the complaint, he argued SWDA breached the contract by diverting a significant portion of the waste stream — the yard and construction debris — away from WM by signing an agreement with Gulf Hauling & Construction Inc. The jury awarded WM $2 million for the diversion of the “waste stream.”
Although SWDA attorney Chuck Miller did not respond to a request for comment by press time, in an answer to WM’s initial complaint, he wrote that the company had waived its right to the construction and yard debris because it had diverted some of the city’s waste to other landfills.
In the answer, Miller also claims WM has “failed to seek alternative dispute resolution” outside of legal action, which is a prerequisite in the contract. Miller wrote that the reimbursement expenses claimed by WM are the result of the company’s “negligence and mismanagement” of the landfill and the damages being sought are “based upon fraud” because they’ve been “misrepresented.”
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