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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. 

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About this Author

Daniel M. Krainin, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm

Daniel M. Krainin is a Principal in the New York office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.  He was named to the 2011 and 2012 Super Lawyers list for the New York Metropolitan area, holds an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, and serves as a Vice Chair of the ABA Environment Section's Environmental Litigation and Toxic Torts Committee.

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Mackenzie Schoonmaker, Environmental Lawyer, Beveridge & Diamond Law Firm

Mackenzie Schoonmaker focuses her practice on litigation and environmental regulatory matters.  Ms. Schoonmaker’s litigation practice includes representing clients in state and federal courts, as well as in data compensation arbitrations under the federal pesticide statute, FIFRA.  Most recently, Ms. Schoonmaker was part of the Firm’s trial team that secured a defense judgment in the District of Columbia Superior Court after a three week trial on tort claims alleging the client supplied corrosive water to apartment buildings.

Nicole Weinstein, environment, litigation, insurance attorney, Beveridge diamond

Nicole B. Weinstein focuses her practice on environmental litigation and regulatory matters, as well as insurance recovery. Prior to joining the Firm, Ms. Weinstein practiced insurance coverage with a national law firm and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Catherine M. Langlois, now retired, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Morris and Sussex County, General Equity Division.  After her clerkship, Ms. Weinstein earned an LL.M. in environmental law from Pace University, during which time she interned with the Environmental Protection Agency, in the New York/Caribbean Superfund...