Chief U.S. District Judge David Herndon dismissed a suit claiming East St. Louis and trash hauler Waste Management conspired against landlord businesses of the Sieron family in fraudulent debt collection.
He found the city and Waste Management aren’t collectors under federal debt collection law, and the Sieron businesses aren’t consumers under that law.
Herndon threw out claims under state law of fraud, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, deceptive trade practices, concealment, misrepresentation, slander, emotional distress, and interference with prospective business advantage.
Belleville lawyer Alvin Paulson filed the suit last year as leader of the Becker Paulson firm at 5111 West Main.
Paulson left the firm in May.
The class action complaint he filed for the Sierons pleaded that, “No Illinois state statute requires a person to have a trash service provider.”
Paulson claimed Waste Management provided to the city a list of properties delinquent on their bills, and the city issued citations to the owners.
He claimed the officer who issued them often presided over hearings that followed.
He claimed that the city falsely represented to consumers that they committed crimes and that it communicated false credit information.
In response, the city argued that judges of a court operating for more than 100 years in East St. Louis should understand the importance of trash removal.
Waste Management argued that it was creditor rather than collector.
Paulson countered by quoting an exception when a creditor falsely suggests to a debtor that a third party is involved in the collection process.
Herndon treated the case as simply as the city and Waste Management proposed, starting with Paulson’s assertion that state law doesn’t require trash service.
“In fact, pursuant to East St. Louis Code, trash service is a requirement,” he wrote.
“A reasonable inference in favor of plaintiffs is that the city receives a list of delinquent Waste Management account holders and the city uses this list to issue citations under its nuisance ordinance.
“However, these allegations, even if ultimately proven true, do not establish that the city collects debts on behalf of Waste Management.”
Herndon wrote that a fine is not a debt, and that plaintiffs didn’t allege that fines were given to Waste Management.
He denied the false name exception.
“Even assuming the allegations in the complaint are true, they fail to establish that the city is acting as a puppet for Waste Management as required under this exception,” he wrote.
He wrote that debt collection law defines a consumer as “any natural person obligated or allegedly obligated to pay any debt.”
“Plaintiffs are clearly business organizations, not natural persons,” he wrote.
“As the underlying tort claims have failed, so must the conspiracy claim.”
He dismissed all counts with prejudice except the due process claim, which he found “extremely vague.”
Upon leaving the Becker firm, Paulson kept the Sieron family and some local governments as clients but lost St. Clair County.
State’s attorney Brendan Kelly stuck with the Becker firm, choosing Thomas Ysursa to replace Paulson as special assistant in prisoner suits and other civil actions.
Ysursa replaced Paulson in 10 prisoner suits at federal court on May 23.
Paulson continues to represent Randolph, Clinton, and Bond counties, Mascoutah, and private clients.