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Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument Concerning Waste Disposal Plant

The Nebraska Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the second iteration of a case involving controversy between landowners and Waste Management of Nebraska, Inc. Waste Management, through a contract with the City of Omaha and Douglas County, Nebraska, operates a landfill where municipal waste from Omaha urban area was deposited.

In 2010, Domina Law Group successfully argued that landowners who sold the landfill site to Waste Management were entitled to buy it back for $1 under the terms of the 1989 sale contract.

After the repurchase was affirmed by the Nebraska Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, Domina's clients returned to court to recover rents, proceeds of landfill gas sales, and other revenues generated on the property. The Nebraska Supreme Court heard those arguments on March 6.

Our clients contend that the production of landfill gas creates a mineral, which by definition is real estate under Nebraska law. They also contend the right to receive rents or profits from land are incidents of ownership, and therefore real estate rights. "We contend they won those rights in the 2010 case."

On appeal, Domina's clients claimed the trial court committed an error by ruling against them on issues related to recovery of rents earned since the time their option was exercised, and future rents for use of a portion of the landfill's site, and for sale of landfill gasses.

"We contend the trial court committed an error when it heard arguments about the ownership of the gas, and the right to recover rents, in this second case. We contend the issue in the second case should have been how much are we entitled to be paid, and the Court should have decided that we were entitled to all revenue production on the land. This is because we own it."

The Supreme Court, hearing these arguments, posed sharp questions for Waste Management's counsel.

A decision, which is likely to shed some light on issues associated with landfill operations, is likely in mid-2015.

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