Judge strikes down Veolia lawsuit, company vows to refile before June 1 deadline

Joseph Diebold

An attorney for Veolia Solid Waste Midwest vowed Monday to refile the company’s lawsuit against Evanston, which a judge struck down Friday.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Lee Preston said the waste management company must refile its suit by June 1, according to court documents.

Veolia’s 34-page original lawsuit against the city, submitted Dec. 5, 2011, alleges Evanston “devised a two-pronged attack against Veolia designed to make things so unpalatable for the company that it voluntarily leaves the City.”

The suit charges Evanston with enacting ordinances that specifically target Veolia, forcing the company to pay fees with costs based on the financial condition of Veolia’s parent company, as well as requiring Veolia to disclose its confidential customer list to the city.

Citing Illinois civil procedure allowing a court to strike a pleading if it is “insufficient in substance or form,” Preston said in his order that the approximately 20 pages of narrative allegations in the suit led him to strike the complaint and ask Veolia to refile.

Veolia’s attorney Gerald Callaghan, of Chicago-based Freeborn & Peters LLP, said he was not concerned with the recent ruling because it was made on the basis of the suit’s narrative and not the actual substance of Veolia’s complaints.

“The complaint was stricken on procedural grounds,” Callaghan said. “There were no rulings on any substantive matters, and we have leave to refile so we’ll amend the complaint and file it.”

In an email sent following Friday’s order, city attorney Grant Farrar expressed his pleasure with the decision.

“Earlier today, Judge Lee Preston dismissed Veolia’s complaint against the City,” Farrar wrote. “In doing so, he agreed with the City’s argument that the pleading was wholly deficient, and constituted nothing more than conclusory narrative statements wholly incompatible with Illinois law.”

Callaghan cautioned against reading too much into Farrar’s claim that the case was “dismissed.”

“The releases … from the city are overblown,” Callaghan said. “In the grand scheme of things, we’ll amend the complaint and the case will be where it’s at right now with the same claims in it.”

Veolia has drawn the ire of some Evanston residents and city officials, who argue that the smell and noise from the company’s waste transfer station at 1711 Church St. create a disturbance for the surrounding residential area.

In March, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl publicly endorsed a proposed transfer station in Morton Grove, Ill., that would be run by Veolia competitor Lakeshore Waste Services.

“The new transfer station will provide users of the Veolia transfer station in Evanston a nearby alternative to transfer their waste at a more appropriately situated facility,” Tisdahl said at the time.

The full order issued Friday by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Lee Preston can be viewed in full below.

[email protected]

Order Dated 5-11-12 – Pltf Must File Amended Complaint