Disposal Systems wins verdict against WM
Texas Disposal Systems Landfill, Inc. (TDS)
received a $25.45 million verdict from a Travis County State
District jury in its lawsuit against Waste Management of Texas,
Inc (WM). The jury awarded $5.45 million in actual damages and
$20 million in exemplary damages, finding that Waste Management
had circulated false and defamatory statements about TDS and
its Austin, Texas landfill in 1997 after TDS received approval
from the San Antonio City Council for a 30-year landfill disposal,
transfer station and recycling contract. At the time, the companies
were competing for a 30-year contract with the City of Austin.
“TDS is very pleased to have had the opportunity to fairly present
its case and to see justice prevail,” said Bob Gregory, chief
executive officer of TDS.
The jury found that Waste Management’s employees and other representatives
made the statements knowing of their falsity or with reckless
disregard as to whether the statements were true or not.
The jury’s verdict found that Waste Management made statements
- Falsely implied that TDS’s southeast Travis County facility
was environmentally less protective than other area landfills.
- Falsely stated that TDS had obtained an exception to the
important and rigorous environmental rules affecting landfills.
- Falsely stated that TDS accepted types of waste that are
not permitted under state rules and under its permit.
The statements were made in a grassroots campaign to leaders
in Austin’s environmental community, as well as to members of
the media and Austin City Council, without identifying that the
source of the statements was Waste Management.
Waste Management of Texas Inc. has expressed disagreement with
According to Waste Management, the case is a 13 year old matter
in which a previous trial jury awarded no damages. The case was
originally filed in 1997 and tried in 2003, in which a jury found
that the company suffered no damages. An appeal was made and,
in 2006, the Texas Third Court of Appeals remanded the case for
retrial, which was completed in December.
In a second trial, a jury found that an “action alert” involved
in the case did not cause TDS to lose any profits or business.
The issue of a public figure plaintiff being awarded millions
for “presumed” reputational damage, when the same jury found
zero in true lost profits or business, presents exactly the type
of constitutional danger that the United States Supreme Court
predicted in Gertz, and the Texas Supreme Court found of concern
in Bently v. Bunton.
Significant errors by the Court led to the verdict and Waste
Management is confident that the Court of Appeals and/or the
Texas Supreme Court will overturn it.
“WM Texas is very disappointed by this decision,” said Don Smith,
area vice president for WM of South Texas. “We will be seeking
prompt relief from the trial court and are prepared to appeal
this award to the highest level.”