Law School Case Brief
Evans v. Walter Indus - 449 F.3d 1159 (11th Cir. 2006)
The Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), Pub. L. No. 109-2, 119 Stat. 4 (2005) (codified in scattered sections of 28 U.S.C.S.) allows for removal of class actions that meet certain minimal requirements. CAFA does not change the traditional rule that the party seeking to remove the case to federal court bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. However, when a party seeks to avail itself of an express statutory exception to federal jurisdiction granted under CAFA, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit holds that the party seeking remand bears the burden of proof with regard to that exception. Thus, the party seeking remand bears the burden of proving the local controversy exception, once the removing parties have proved the amount in controversy and the minimal diversity requirement, and thus have established federal court jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1332(d)(2).
On April 8, 2005, Isaiah Evans, as one of the plaintiffs, filed a case in the Circuit Court of Calhoun County, Alabama, on behalf of a class of people who were allegedly injured by the actions of 18 named defendants and a number of fictitious defendants. Evans and other plaintiffs alleged that the defendants operated manufacturing facilities in the Anniston, Alabama area. They alleged both property damage and personal injury that they attribute to defendants' release of various waste substances over an approximately 85-year period. Four of the defendants removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), which expanded federal jurisdiction for class actions. Defendants' Notice of Removal also contained a footnote that stated that defendants believed that plaintiffs may have improperly joined non-diverse defendants. Plaintiffs filed a motion to remand the case to state court. Plaintiffs' sole argument for remand was that the case fell within CAFA's "local controversy" exception to federal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs argued that their case was a local controversy because more than two-thirds of the plaintiff class were Alabama citizens and at least one Alabama defendant, U.S. Pipe, was a "significant" defendant within the meaning of CAFA. Plaintiffs proffered the affidavits of two of their attorneys to support their claim. The district court agreed that this case fell within CAFA's local controversy exception and remanded the case to state court.
Did the district court err in remanding the case to Alabama state court?
The appellate court held that since review by the appeals court was discretionary under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1453(c)(1), Congress contemplated the application of Fed. R. App. P. 5, which provided that a notice of appeal need not be filed. Therefore, the date on which an appeal was filed was the date that the court of appeals accepted the appeal, and thus filed the appeal. The class members failed to bear their burden of proving that their case belonged in state court under the local controversy exception to federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1332(d)(4)(A) where they failed to prove that greater than two-thirds of the proposed class members were Alabama citizens and they failed to prove that an Alabama corporation was a significant defendant as defined by CAFA where the evidence did not indicate that a significant number or percentage of putative class members had claims against the Alabama corporation.
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