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Louisiana Federal Court Jurisdictional Minimum Not Met in Chemical Explosion Case

Reinforcing that each individual plaintiff must meet the jurisdictional minimum for federal removal, the Middle District of Louisiana remanded a chemical explosion personal injury case to state court. Perritt v. Westlake Vinyls Co., 3:12-cv-00253 (lead case), Order (M.D. La. Dec. 9, 2013).

In March of 2012, several individuals were allegedly injured by an explosion and resulting release of chemicals such as vinyl chloride monomer, hydrochloric acid, and chlorine at Westlake Vinyls Company (“Westlake”) in Geismar, Louisiana. Id. at 2-3. Plaintiffs filed petitions in Louisiana state court, claiming they had suffered emotional distress, pain and suffering, and property damage. Id. at 3-4. Although at least one petition expressly stated the amount alleged was less than the threshold for federal jurisdiction, in April 2012, Westlake removed the actions to federal court, where they were consolidated. Id. at 4.

In December 2013, following an earlier ruling that was subsequently vacated, the court explained that although the diversity requirement had been met, the amount in controversy did not exceed $75,000 for each of the Plaintiffs. The court reasoned that it was not “facially apparent” that the amount in controversy for each claim exceeded $75,000, finding that it could not consider Defendant’s affidavits submitted after the time of removal and that Defendant’s allegations regarding the amount in controversy were conclusory. Id. at 11-13. Although the court acknowledged the “potential” that the claims and class representative attorney’s fees would be in excess of the jurisdictional minimum, the vague damages allegations did not meet the “more likely than not” standard. Id. at 13-14. 

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 41


About this Author

Daniel M. Krainin Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY

Dan deploys more than two decades of environmental litigation experience to resolve clients’ legal and business challenges.

Primarily focused on environmental and toxic tort litigation, Dan helps clients successfully resolve groundwater contamination, hazardous waste site remediation, natural resource damages, permit defense and product-related matters. He enjoys using his skills as a litigator to help clients solve environmental problems.

Among his many wins, Dan successfully led a team that defeated an emergency challenge to a permit that Dan’s client needed to continue its...

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Mackenzie S. Schoonmaker Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY

Mackenzie’s practice includes both litigation and regulatory matters arising under FIFRA, the Clean Water Act, and related environmental laws.

She is passionate about conserving air, water, wildlife, and land for future generations, and enjoys helping clients navigate and enforce the detailed framework of environmental law because she believes compliance is key to preventing adverse impacts to the environment.

Mackenzie is a co-chair of Beveridge & Diamond’s Industrial Hemp & Cannabis industry team. She advises clients, and regularly writes and presents, on federal and state environmental regulations impacting this thriving industry. 

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Mackenzie represents pesticide companies in data compensation arbitrations, focusing on defending the rights of data owners against follow-on registrants of pesticides. She has also worked extensively with task forces comprised of national and multinational companies of all sizes that operate as joint ventures or limited liability companies to generate data and other information to meet government requirements under FIFRA.

Among the wide range of issues under the Clean Water Act that Mackenzie has handled are assisting companies with responses to Clean Water Act Section 308 information requests and Clean Water Act Section 404 compensatory mitigation requirements.

Mackenzie also defends public utilities against toxic tort claims. She was part of the team that obtained a defense judgment after a three-week trial regarding claims alleging that the client supplied corrosive water to apartment buildings. The case, Cormier v. D.C. WASA, 2011 D.C. Super. Lexis 7, 84 A.3d 492 (2013), was successfully upheld on appeal.

Nicole B. Weinstein Insurance Recovery & Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY

Nicole B. Weinstein helps clients minimize and eliminate liability for contaminated sites in litigation, and to recover insurance proceeds across industries.

Nicole's practice focuses on insurance recovery and environmental litigation. She excels at identifying avenues of defense and coverage, and in distilling complicated issues into understandable terms.

Nicole has been interested in environmental matters for as long as she can remember, and has always enjoyed thinking through complex challenges. She planned to become an environmental lawyer as a student, and after...