EAST ST. LOUIS – Debt collection law protects households and not businesses, trash hauler Waste Management argued in a landlord’s federal class action on Sept. 27.
In a motion to dismiss the case, Waste Management counsel Jane Dueker also pleaded that the law defines her client as creditor rather than collector.
“Based upon the facts alleged, accepted as true, plaintiffs have not stated a claim against Waste Management under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,” she wrote.
Waste Management and East St. Louis face charges that the city improperly issued nuisance citations to collect the trash hauler’s debts.
Waste Management acts as exclusive trash contractor by contract with the city.
Lawyer Alvin Paulson filed the suit in July for corporations of the Sieron family that owns hundreds of rental properties in St. Clair County.
Paulson alleged 16 counts against the city under state and federal law, a single count against Waste Management under federal law, and a conspiracy count against both.
He alleges that the city issues citations to Waste Management customers with delinquent bills and to those with no trash service.
“No Illinois state statute requires a person to have a trash service provider,” Paulson wrote.
East St. Louis moved to dismiss the suit in August, asking District Judge David Herndon to take notice of conditions in the community around the courthouse.
City counsel John Sabo wrote that plaintiffs don’t want to pay for trash service or be otherwise responsible for the condition of their properties.
Paulson accidentally gave Dueker extra time to answer the suit, by suing the wrong Waste Management subsidiary.
Dueker’s answer arrived as a motion to dismiss, arguing that Waste Management is not subject to debt collection law.
“Debt collectors and creditors are mutually exclusive,” she wrote.
“Even if it were true that the city was issuing citations on behalf of or as an agent of Waste Management, the allegations still establish the relevant debt is owed to Waste Management,” she wrote.
Dueker wrote that the law defines debt as an obligation arising from a transaction primarily for personal, family or household purposes.
"Any debt plaintiffs owe would be for business purposes, not for personal, family, or household purposes," she wrote.
“Because conspiracy is not an independent cause of action and no Illinois state claim is asserted against Waste Management, the complaint fails to state a claim against Waste Management for conspiracy.”
Dueker practices at Stinson Morrison Hecker, in Clayton, Mo.
Sabo practices at Clayborne, Sabo, and Wagner, in Belleville.
Paulson practices at Becker, Paulson, Hoerner, and Thompson, in Belleville.
Paulson often works as special assistant to St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly in civil litigation.
Last year the county paid Paulson’s firm $333,240.50.