Third Circuit Rules Local Toxic Tort Suit Can’t Be Removed to Federal Court Under CAFA
In a published opinion stamped “PRECEDENTIAL,” the Third Circuit has held that, under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), four hundred residents of the Virgin Islands harmed by toxins from a bauxite refinery site should have their claims heard in state, not federal, court. This is the first federal appeals court ruling on the issue.
The plaintiffs allege that St. Croix Renaissance Group (SCRG), the owner of the refinery, failed to properly store and secure piles of toxic industrial byproduct over a period of 10 years, resulting in personal injury and property damage. The plaintiffs filed the case in Virgin Islands state court. SCRG, however, sought to remove the case to federal court as a “mass action” under CAFA, but the district court remanded the case to local court.
Public Justice represented the plaintiffs on appeal, and last month Kazan-Budd Attorney Leah Nicholls argued Abraham v. St. Croix Renaissance Group before a panel of the Third Circuit. Under CAFA, Nicholls argued, mass actions in which “all of the claims in the action arise from an event or occurrence in the State in which the action was filed, and that allegedly resulted in injuries in that State” should stay in state court.
The Third Circuit agreed, ensuring that the plaintiffs in Abraham will have their claims heard in state court.
Co-counsel and trial counsel are Public Justice Foundation Board Member Lee J. Rohn of the Law Offices of Lee J. Rohn & Associates, LLC, of Christiansted, St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Public Justice’s Leslie Brueckner and Paul Bland joined Nicholls on this case.