JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) – John Simmons of Alton, who made more
than $1 million suing a business that Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster
sued at the same time, has contributed $275,000 to Koster’s campaign for
Except for unions, no one has given Koster more.
Simmons gave $100,000 to Koster’s campaign for attorney
general in 2012.
In March 2013, Koster and the Simmons firm filed separate
suits against Republic Services in St. Louis County court.
Republic Services owns a smoldering landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.
The Simmons firm sued first, on behalf of neighbors
representing a plaintiff class.
Koster’s suit for the people of Missouri followed eight days
Both suits claimed odors from the landfill harmed the local
quality of life.
The Simmons suit sought compensatory and punitive damages,
plus any other necessary relief.
Koster’s suit sought to recover cleanup costs and any
illegal gains from dumping solid waste into waters of the state.
In April 2013, Republic Services removed the Simmons suit to
U.S. district court.
There, in May 2013, John Phillips of the Simmons firm moved
to remedy and prevent communications between Republic Services and the class.
Phillips wrote that after plaintiffs filed their suit, Koster
sued Republic Services on substantially similar allegations.
Koster and Republic Services entered into a consent
injunction including remediation efforts that would cause odors to worsen for
Phillips wrote that Republic Services offered temporary
housing in a “Dear Neighbor” letter to residents within a mile.
He found the letter inadequate and ambiguous, and wrote that
it did not reserve the rights of the class nor provide security for their homes.
He wrote that Republic Services did not contact him before
contacting the class.
He wrote that a mile was precisely the distance in the class
In a conference with Magistrate Judge Thomas Mummert,
Republic Services agreed to send a letter stating that accepting the offer
would not release legal claims.
“Such clarification is particularly important in the instant
case due to the pendency of the state court action initiated by the Missouri
attorney general about the same landfill,” Mummert wrote.
“Thus, confusion is a distinct possibility.”
Mummert wrote that defense counsel could avoid confusion by
notice to plaintiff’s counsel of a prospective communication.
In June 2013, Simmons gave $50,000 to Koster’s campaign.
In September 2013, he gave Koster another $50,000.
In October 2013, Phillips proposed to amend the complaint.
Republic Services responded by moving to compel production
of medical records, arguing that the new complaint alleged injuries as well as
Phillips answered that the class claimed only property
damage and “attendant discomfort and inconvenience.”
Mummert denied the motion, finding no injury claim in the
In November 2013, Republic Services moved to exclude a
report of an expert for the class, a portion of another expert’s report, and
another expert’s declaration.
An attachment from a deposition showed expert Albert Heber
didn’t know the area included chemical manufacturers and formulators.
Phillips asked for an extension of time to reply, and Mummert
No reply followed, for Phillips and Republic Services
achieved substantial agreement in December 2013.
In March 2014, a lingering dispute caused Phillips to issue
a subpoena on owners of apartments for rental records.
The owners moved to quash the subpoena, and Mummert denied
Parties submitted a settlement in April 2014, and Mummert
granted preliminary approval.
The court sent notice to 1,244 class members.
Mummert received objections, starting with Elmer Klump and
They wrote that, “it is not in the best interest of our
property value or our health and welfare to be bound by the terms of the
settlement and receive a cash payment at this time.”
Frank Licata and Lupe Licata wrote that the Simmons firm
couldn’t represent them, “because we have never signed anything with them, nor
have we asked them to represent us.”
“Republic cannot throw a few dollars at homeowners and then
proceed to stink them out,” they wrote.
Sharon Bishop wrote, “I am really concerned that this
lawsuit was settled and we had to sign claim forms before they are going to
open the trench which will be bad because of the extra stench and possible
radiation coming from it.”
An adjacent landfill holds radioactive waste.
Bishop wrote, “I feel they settled so no one would be able
to make any other claims against them.”
David Blackwell wrote, “How anybody can call giving up your
health rights a proper thing to do is beyond me.”
Martha Watson of Bridgeton disagreed with the settlement,
“because the issues with health and property concerns related to the landfill
have not been resolved.”
Thomas Olmsted and Jill Olmsted wrote, “We will not agree to
a settlement that allows unjust treatment to me or other members of our
They wrote that the attorneys were being compensated at an
unmerited rate compared to the small amount of damages they would receive.
“We feel that the attorneys representing us are underestimating
the strong liability case against the defendant and that the proposed fee may
be unduly influencing their willingness to further litigate this matter,” they
Joseph Smith and Deanna Smith wrote that they felt they
should be compensated for more money.
They wrote that they had their house on the market and felt
that the landfill odor and its reputation brought negative attention to the
Geraldine Zoll, Mitchell Vardeman and Heather Bernardon each
signed a statement that, “The property values have dropped and no one would
ever buy here if I wanted to sell. $5,000 is an insult!”
Twelve neighbors signed a statement claiming the settlement
“The settlement is great for the defendant because it
releases a multitude of claims with the potential of monetary damages,” it
“The settlement is great for the class counsel because it
receives overwhelming compensation.”
John James retained lawyer Daniel Finney, who argued that
the release was vague, confusing and misleading as to what claims survive the
He wrote that counsel on both sides made statements that
contradict the release.
In response to the objections, the parties deleted from the
release a statement that there are no known substantial radioactive emissions
from the landfill.
They added a sentence allowing recovery for radiation
contamination of property.
In July 2014, Phillips moved for an award of $1,154,984.86
in fees, $251,147.21 in expenses, and $15,000 each for six class
He wrote that 947 individuals chose to participate, a rate
of 76 percent.
He wrote that 194 essentially opted out by not responding,
80 affirmatively opted out, and 23 objected.
In August 2014, Mummert overruled all objections and entered
He ordered Republic Services to distribute $3,323,576.36 to
class members and $90,000 to the class representatives.
He ruled that class counsel could retain $1,192,281 as their
fee and $253,266.64 as cost reimbursement.
In November 2014, Simmons gave Koster $25,000.
Simmons gave Koster $50,000 in June 2015, and $50,000 last
This June, Simmons gave Koster $50,000.
Koster’s landfill suit took a detour last year, when Republic
Services removed it to U.S. district court.
Republic Services claimed an amended complaint and expert
reports implicated federal interests, but District Judge Ronnie White disagreed.
In April, he remanded the case to the county court.