Missouri Supreme Court upholds lower court ruling awarding damages to trash haulers

By Staff Report

The Missouri Supreme Court today upheld a lower court’s ruling awarding damages to three trash haulers who sued St. Louis County over the establishment of its trash-collection program.

St. Louis County had appealed a Sept. 2 ruling by Circuit Court Judge Barbara Wallace that ordered the county pay a total of $1,159,903.90 to American Eagle Waste, Meridian Waste and Waste Management in their suit that alleged the county failed to provide the state-required two years’ written notice it was establishing eight trash district in unincorporated areas.

The Supreme Court’s decision upheld Wallace’s ruling, except for how the damages were calculated. American Eagle Waste was awarded $261,086.65; Meridian received $99,224.20; and Waste Management received $799,593.90.

The Supreme Court reversed the Circuit Court’s calculation of damages and remanded the issue back to the Circuit Court.

“… This court reverses the Circuit Court’s calculation of damages, affirms the judgment in all other respects, and remands the case to the Circuit Court,” the ruling stated.

“The Circuit Court, in its hearing on damages, excluded evidence of haulers’ expenses or net profit, allowing only evidence of their gross revenue for a two-year period starting April 8, 2008. In its final judgment, the Circuit Court awarded haulers 5 percent of their gross revenue for that two-year period,” the ruling stated.

County Executive Dooley said the trash districts have saved taxpayers $16 million per year for the last four year, a total of $64 million.

“That’s a lot of money left in our citizens’ pockets,” Dooley said. “That’s where it needs to be.”

The county executive also said the most important aspect of the ruling is that the program will stay in place. It was not the county’s authority, but rather, the process, challenged by the trash haulers, Dooley said.

“It’s legal. It’s not going away,” Dooley said. “It continues to save $16 million a year …”

Look for complete coverage of the Supreme Court’s ruling in next week’s Call.