from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan at Ann Arbor. No. 5:16-cv-12875-John
Corbett O'Meara, District Judge.
A. K. Grunert, CAMPBELL, CAMPBELL, EDWARDS & CONROY,
P.C., Boston, Massachusetts, Cheryl A. Bush, Michael R.
Williams, BUSH SEYFERTH & PAIGE PLLC, Troy, Michigan, for
L. Levens, COHEN MILSTEIN SELLERS & TOLL PLLC,
Washington, D.C., for Appellees.
Before: NORRIS, BATCHELDER, and GIBBONS, Circuit Judges.
SMITH GIBBONS, Circuit Judge.
case arises out of defendant Veolia Water North America
Operating Services, LLC's ("Veolia") and other
defendants' allegedly negligent conduct in connection
with the Flint, Michigan water crisis. The sole issue on
appeal is the meaning of "other class actions"
under the local controversy exception to the Class Action
Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA"), 28 U.S.C. §
1332(d). The district court found that plaintiffs had met the
requirements for the local controversy exception to CAFA and
remanded this matter to the Michigan state courts. For the
reasons that follow, we reverse the district court's
order to remand the case to state court and find that the
local controversy exception is inapplicable to this case.
case is one of numerous actions arising from the water crisis
in Flint, Michigan. The Flint public water system includes
lead pipes. Prior to April 2014, Flint purchased treated
water from the City of Detroit. Thereafter, the city began
using the Flint River as its water source. The Flint River
water was not treated with corrosion-inhibiting chemicals,
and this led to a multitude of serious problems with the
local water supply. Residents complained that the water was
discolored and foul-smelling. There were reports of skin
rashes, hair loss, and vomiting after drinking and bathing in
the water. And most disturbingly, many children in Flint were
found to have high levels of lead in their blood stream.
See Mason v. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, P.C.,
842 F.3d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 2016).
26, 2016, the plaintiffs filed this putative class action in
Genesee County Circuit Court asserting claims for negligence,
intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress,
and unjust enrichment. They alleged that the individual
plaintiffs and the members of the class have been harmed by
exposure to lead from Flint's public water system. The
defendants include Veolia and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam,
P.C. ("LAN"), as well as several other entities
related to either Veolia or LAN. In 2013, LAN was hired by
Flint to advise the city with respect to using the Flint
River as its water source. Flint hired Veolia in February
2015 as a water expert to evaluate the city's
water-treatment process. The plaintiffs seek damages from
Veolia and LAN for the harm they allegedly suffered as a
result of the contaminated Flint water.
timely removed the case to district court pursuant to CAFA.
Veolia asserted that the amount in controversy exceeded $5
million, the putative class comprised at least 100 members,
and there was the minimal diversity of citizenship required
by CAFA. It also asserted that the local controversy
exception did not apply to defeat federal jurisdiction
because at least five similar class actions had been filed
prior to the filing of this action.
plaintiffs moved to remand on the ground that the matter was
a local controversy as contemplated by § 1332(d)(4)(A)
and thus did not fall within CAFA's jurisdiction. Under
the local controversy exception, a district court must
decline to exercise CAFA jurisdiction:
(i) over a class action in which-
(I) greater than two-thirds of the members of all proposed
plaintiff classes in the aggregate are citizens of the State