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Hood v. Gilster-Mary Lee Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 1, 2015

Patricia Hood; Susan Meyer; Nora de la Rosa, Plaintiffs - Appellees
v.
Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted April 14, 2015.

Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Joplin.

For Patricia Hood, Susan Meyer, Nora de la Rosa, Plaintiff - Appellees: Michael S. Kilgore, Litigation Counsel, J'Nan Kimak, Timothy J. Kingsbury, Kenneth Blair McClain, Kevin Daniel Stanley, Humphrey & Farrington, Independence, MO.

For Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation, Defendant - Appellant: Charles S. Elbert, Douglas Wilford King, Shands & Elbert, Saint Louis, MO.

Before LOKEN, COLLOTON, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 264

BENTON, Circuit Judge.

On December 23, 2013, former and current employees filed a class action lawsuit in state court against Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation and six other defendants. The employees allege lung impairment (or potential lung impairment) from exposure to butter-flavoring products, including diacetyl, used in Gilster's microwave popcorn packaging plant in Jasper, Missouri. Defendants removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act. See 28 U.S.C. § § 1332, 1441(a)-(b), 1453. The parties do not dispute CAFA jurisdiction. Six weeks later, the employees dismissed all defendants except Gilster. The district court ordered a remand to state court based on CAFA's local-controversy exception. See Hood v. Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., 2015 WL 328409, at *3, *5 (W.D. Mo. Jan. 26, 2015), citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4). Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1453(c), this court reverses and remands.

The proposed class includes those who worked for over one year at Gilster's plant before January 1, 2008--when Gilster stopped using diacetyl. They allege claims for premises liability, negligence, fraudulent concealment, prima facie tort, and medical monitoring. The employees seek, among other remedies, a funded medical-monitoring program.

Under the local-controversy exception, a district court is required to decline jurisdiction when, as relevant here, " greater than two-thirds of the members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate are

Page 265

citizens of the State in which the action was originally filed." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4)(A)(i)(I).

The two-thirds is determined as of the date of the filing of the complaint (or amended complaint). See id. § 1332(d)(7). The district court permitted discovery on state citizenship. For all of the potential class members, except the current employees, the employees initially provided only last-known addresses, some 27 years old, and did not identify state citizenship. The employees wrote the potential class members seeking affidavits of citizenship; most did not respond.

The employees identified two groups of Gilster employees who worked at the plant over one year before 2008: 40 current employees (three of whom are not U.S. citizens), and 246 former employees. The employees received 95 affidavits from former employees still residing in Missouri, and 7 from former employees no longer in Missouri. Of the former employees, 126 had last-known addresses in Missouri but did not return an affidavit. They also obtained lists of former employees from two temporary staffing companies. One temporary staffing list shows 58 of 61 individuals have last-known Missouri addresses, 13 of which confirmed Missouri citizenship. Potential class members were also identified from prior litigation against Gilster. Of 25 potential members, 9 were confirmed as Missouri citizens. ...


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