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State Corporation Website Insufficient to Establish Citizenship of Corporate Class Members in Pollution Class Action

Striking a blow to plaintiffs trying to remand an action back to state court, the Northern District of Georgia found that office address information from a state’s corporation website is not sufficient to establish citizenship of corporations or partnerships for the purposes of showing class members’ residency under the “local controversy” provision of the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). See Anderson v. King Am. Finishing, Inc., No. 1:11-cv-2258-JEC, (N.D. Ga. Mar. 25, 2013), available atwww.bdlaw.com/assets/attachments/Anderson.pdf.  

Plaintiffs, two Georgia residents and a putative class, alleged that King America Finishing, Inc. released a toxic chemical into the Ogeechee River in May 2011, subsequently injuring Plaintiffs’ property and health. Anderson, slip op. at 1–2. After Defendants removed to federal court, Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand back to state court under CAFA’s “local controversy” provision, a three-pronged requirement of which only one was in question—whether two-thirds of the class members are citizens of the state in which the action was originally filed. Id. at 3-5.

To meet this two-thirds residency burden for an alleged class of 932 members, Plaintiffs included as residents 57 corporate class members they determined to be Georgia citizens by cross-referencing tax assessment records to the secretary of state’s corporation website. Id. at 6-7. In finding Plaintiffs failed to meet the residency requirement, the court focused on the 57 corporate entities and ruled that tax and incorporation records proved neither the “principal place of business” of corporations nor the residency of LLC and partnership members. Id. at 9–10. The court also took issue with the Plaintiffs’ methodology for determining that 19 individual class members were Georgia citizens, ruling that affidavits naming Georgia addresses alone are inadequate evidence of residency. Id. at 10. Finally, the court questioned the accuracy of the estimated class size, given the likelihood that more than 932 individuals would fall within the broad net—all those directly or indirectly impacted—cast by Plaintiffs. Id. at 11.

© 2021 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume III, Number 198
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About this Author

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

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...

212-702 5417
Mackenzie S. Schoonmaker Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY
Principal

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...

212-702-5415
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