Landfill nuisance case gets moved to mediation.
Hoping to resolve the lawsuit filed by Bristol Tennessee over the Bristol Virginia landfill, U.S. Federal District Judge James P. Jones called for and ordered both Bristols to enter mediation overseen by Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent. Last May, Bristol Tennessee filed a lawsuit against Bristol Virginia over the handling of its landfill. There were concerns over odor, emissions, and the overall health of those living nearby as well as a lack of response addressing these concerns.
Judge Jones, who is now handling the case, calls mediation “now appropriate” and points out, “It may be that an agreed settlement of this case is not feasible at this time, as Bristol Tennessee contends. It is, of course, unclear when (and if) the remedial efforts being undertaken by Bristol Virginia will be successful.”
Judge Jones’s hopes that court costs will be reduced on both sides if an agreement is reached during mediation. He stated further, “As Bristol Virginia points out, the cost of litigation is a burden on both cities, and ultimately their taxpayers. Discussions between the parties under the careful supervision of an experienced magistrate judge may result in a satisfactory outcome. At worst, they will enlighten each side as to the other primary concerns, thus laying the groundwork for future agreement.”
This comes as the combined cost of litigation on both sides hits $1.3 million with the money spent on court and attorney fees.
The attorneys for Bristol Tennessee oppose the order claiming it to be “premature.” Instead, it is their belief that should Bristol Virginia commit to rectifying the issues with the landfill, the lawsuit would be resolved promptly with no need for mediation. The attorneys submitted, “Bristol Tennessee submits that a mediation may be needed in the future, but it believes that assuming Bristol Virginia remains committed on these issues, this case can be resolved promptly without the expense or time associated with mediation.”
Conversely, in a statement issued by the city of Bristol officials indicated that they are pleased with the order for mediation. The city holds that it is committed to remediating the issues and that taxpayer money shouldn’t be spent on court delaying productivity and progress. Officials said, “Bristol, Virginia, remains focused on remediating the odor issues as work on the landfill continues through close coordination with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The city has consistently argued that spending more time and money in court only delays productivity and progress, and the court recognizes the taxpayers of both cities are bearing the cost of this expensive litigation.”
In the city’s statement, the officials note that they are looking forward to working through the mediation in hopes of resolving the lawsuit, saying, “Today’s ruling is particularly important given that the mediation is provided at no cost by the court. Bristol Virginia looks forward to working with Bristol Tennessee to resolve the litigation between the parties in order to rebuild trust between both cities so that we may continue to work together to serve the whole community.”