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Man faces billions in fines for storing wood

Hunt County sued a Flower Mound resident in Travis County for improper waste disposal. Kirk Grady owned property where he stockpiled wood for about three years before he eventually sold it in 2002. Now he is being asked to pay $2 billion in fines in what Grady considers to be a "ridiculous and unconscionable" legal action against him. The county went to the trouble of hiring a private law firm to prosecute him with a contingency-fee provision.

He hired Dallas attorney Michael R. Goldman. There are currently close to 50 similar cases, where law-firms get a perverse incentive to sue for as much money as possible, across Texas alone. But these sort of contingency-fee arrangements are legal under Texas law. This law is almost 50 years old and it has given local governments the authority to file lawsuits seeking civil penalties for different claimed violations of the state's environmental laws ever since it passed.

According to the man who now faces billions in fines that law is unconstitutional. Now, he and his lawyer will challange it in the federal lawsuit filed last month in Dallas. The Houston attorney who is handling the case for Hunt County explained that the wood found on the man's property was tested positive for lead, asbestos and arsenic. According to his statement it took no less than 60 truckloads just to remove the debris from the property back in December. This is the explanation behind the claims that Kirk Grady used the land as an "unlawful dump site." In the lawsuit Grady explained that he only learnt about the wood being stored on the property last year and that Hunt County couldn't have known when the wood pile was placed on the property. The man considers the county is seeking the maximum amount of fines available under the law.

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