B&D Litigators Defeat Remand Motion of 600 Nuisance Plaintiffs

Judge Susie Morgan of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana denied a motion to remand to state court, in a consolidated action brought by over 600 individual Plaintiffs alleging that odors from the Jefferson Parish Landfill located near New Orleans constituted a nuisance. Addison v. Louisiana Regional Landfill Company, --- F.Supp.3d ---, 2019 WL 3766095 (E.D. La. Aug. 9, 2019). The Landfill Defendants removed the lawsuit to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) after the Plaintiffs consented to consolidation in state court of seven separate mass actions, each with fewer than 100 plaintiffs, which is the CAFA threshold for removal. The published opinion addresses important and novel issues under CAFA, including proof of Plaintiffs’ consent to consolidation and the local single event exclusion.

The first action was filed in the Louisiana state court in December 2018, with six additional actions filed by the same counsel between February and May 2019 – involving different plaintiffs but largely identical allegations. The Defendants moved to consolidate the seven actions, to which the Plaintiffs consented.

The Defendants then removed the consolidated actions to federal court under the mass action provisions of CAFA. The provision allows for federal jurisdiction when the monetary relief claims of 100 or more persons are proposed to be tried jointly on the grounds that the claims involve common questions of law or fact. The Plaintiffs moved to remand, arguing that their suit fell within an exception to the CAFA provision because the seven actions were joined upon motion of the Defendant.

Judge Morgan denied the Plaintiffs' motion and wrote that by consenting to consolidation, the "Plaintiffs demonstrated that they were not willing to undergo the inconvenience of seven separate trials" and thus effectively proposed a joint trial. The court ruled that the consolidated suits were properly removed to federal court.

The court also rejected the Plaintiffs’ contention that CAFA’s local single event exclusion to federal jurisdiction applied, writing that “Plaintiffs do not point to a single focused event that culminates in the basis of Defendants’ liability. . . . Although this case involves an environmental tort, the Court finds the emission of odors and chemicals from various sources, caused by various [alleged] failures on the parts of various Defendants, at different times over a period of years, does not constitute a single focused event such as occurs in a chemical spill.”

In parallel putative class actions regarding the Jefferson Parish Landfill pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Defendants similarly defeated remand motions in March 2019, in which the plaintiffs argued that a local controversy exception to CAFA should apply. Ictech-Bendeck v. Progressive Waste Solutions of Louisiana, 367 F.Supp.3d 555 (E.D. La. 2019).

The Waste Connections Defendants are represented by firm Principals Jimmy SlaughterMegan BrillaultMike Murphy, and John Paul of Beveridge & Diamond PC, and David Taggart and Michael Mims of Bradley, Murchison, Kelly & Shea. Principal Megan Brillault led the Defendants in presenting oral arguments against the remand motions.

View additional news coverage of the decision in Bloomberg Environment (subscription required).