Local Government

Editor:
Paul Martin, Esquire

County violation of statute requiring two-year notice to waste haulers before taking over hauling services impliedly actionable under the statute. American Eagle Waste Industries v. St. Louis County, No. 92702 (Mo. banc, July 31, 2012), Per Curiam.

St. Louis County decided to consolidate the provision of residential solid waste hauling services by awarding contracts to a single hauler for each of several newly-created districts. Section 260.247, RSMo. permits a local government to take over solid waste hauling operations but requires a two-year notice to the existing hauler before the government can assume operations. The county requested bids for the unitary district services and awarded contracts but failed to provide the required notice to the existing haulers, who were not awarded the new contracts. The existing haulers sued, claiming anti-trust damages and damages for breach of implied-in-law contracts. The trial court awarded damages based on the latter theory, and both parties appealed.

Among several points on appeal raised by both the county and the haulers, the county argued that the judgment was erroneous because the theory of a contract implied-in law, or “quasi-contract”, did not pertain. The Supreme Court agreed, finding that a fundamental element of a quasi-contract – the receipt of a benefit by the defendant for which equity requires payment – was not satisfied. But the Court went on to declare that the statute at issue created a private right of action in the existing haulers. The statute set forth a state-wide policy of providing a two-year notice prior to any government takeover of private waste hauling services to allow the existing hauler the opportunity to make necessary business adjustments. It further exhibited an intent that a deposed hauler would continue to provide services during the notice period. The Court accordingly found that the statute implied a private right of action for damages, consisting of net profit over the two-year period, even though the haulers did not advance that specific claim at trial. The case was remanded for further consideration of the damages claim.