Allied Waste sues lawyers over failed Thermal Plant appeal

Company claims duo didn't communicate about strategy to reverse $7.2M verdict

Two waste management companies that had to pay Metro Nashville $7.2 million following a fire that destroyed downtown’s Thermal Plant are suing their appellate attorneys in the post-fire lawsuit for negligence and breach of contract.

Allied Waste North America and its BFI Waste Services subsidiary filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Middle Tennessee on Wednesday against law firm Lewis King Krieg & Waldrop and attorneys Linda Mowles and Deborah Stevens, both of Knoxville. Stevens was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam last month to be the circuit judge for the state's Sixth Judicial District.

The lawsuit claims Mowles and Stevens were hired to observe the jury trial deciding Metro's suit against the waste companies and others in the fall of 2010. The attorneys were to scout potential issues that could be used in the appeals process.

Metro and its insurer were awarded $7.2 million at the trial related to the 2002 Thermal Plant fire. The Lewis King attorneys helped file the appeal for Allied and BFI, but the appeal was denied by the Tennessee Supreme Court on all counts.

The waste management companies now claim that the attorneys didn't communicate with them about a strategy before filing the appeal. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the attorneys’ exclusion of expert testimony related to the value of the thermal plant was detrimental to the case. The appeal application didn't “properly preserve” that issue, the suit claims.

Darrell Townsend, an attorney representing Lewis King, said Thursday afternoon the firm disputes the allegations and plans to defend itself in court.

Allied Waste is the country's second-largest waste management company. It employs more than 250 people in Middle Tennessee, where it works both with Metro and Rutherford County officials.