Mays et al v. Synder et al
ORDER denying 33 Motion to remand and consolidating cases 16-10444 and 17-10996. Signed by District Judge Judith E. Levy. (DPer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Melissa Mays, et al.,
Case No. 17-cv-10996
Judith E. Levy
United States District Judge
Governor Rick Snyder, et al.,
Mag. Judge Mona K. Majzoub
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION TO
REMAND  AND CONSOLIDATING CASE WITH 16-CV-10444
On January 19, 2016, plaintiffs filed a class action in Genesee
County Circuit Court, alleging state law claims against current and
former employees of the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality (“MDEQ”). (Dkt. 33 at 14.) On February 14, 2017, plaintiffs
filed a second amended class complaint naming defendants Veolia
North America, LLC, Veolia North America, Inc., Veolia Water North
America Operating Services, LLC, and Veolia Environment, S.A.
(collectively, “Veolia”) for the first time.
On March 29, 2017,
Veolia timely removed this case to federal court, alleging diversity
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Dkt. 1.)
Plaintiffs now move to remand this case back to state court, citing
the local controversy exception to diversity jurisdiction under the Class
Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d).
motion having been fully briefed, and oral argument will not be held
pursuant to E.D. Mich. Local R. 7.1(f).
CAFA requires a court to decline to exercise jurisdiction over class
actions in which:
(I) greater than two-thirds of the members of all
proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate are citizens
of the State in which the action was originally filed;
(II) at least 1 defendant is a defendant—
(aa) from whom significant relief is sought by
members of the plaintiff class;
(bb) whose alleged conduct forms a significant
basis for the claims asserted by the proposed
plaintiff class; and
(cc) who is a citizen of the State in which the
action was originally filed; and
(III) principal injuries resulting from the alleged
conduct or any related conduct of each defendant were
incurred in the State in which the action was originally
(ii) during the 3-year period preceding the filing of that class
action, no other class action has been filed asserting the
same or similar factual allegations against any of the
defendants on behalf of the same or other persons;
28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4)(A).
This exception to diversity jurisdiction is
commonly referred to as the “local controversy” exception. “[T]he party
seeking to remand under an exception to CAFA bears the burden of
establishing each element of the exception by a preponderance of the
evidence.” Mason v. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, P.C., 842 F.3d
383, 388 (6th Cir. 2016) (collecting cases).
Plaintiffs argue that this exception applies because their case was
the first-filed class action in Michigan state court, and it fits all other
criteria for the local controversy exception. Plaintiffs also present a
series of policy arguments about why this case is truly local, and
deserves to be in Michigan state courts rather than removed to federal
This case was first filed in Michigan state court on January 19,
In Mason, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth
Circuit determined that CAFA’s local controversy exception applied to a
suit filed in Michigan state court on January 25, 2016, finding by
implication that the suit met the requirements of § 1332(d)(4)(A)(ii).
Mason, 842 F.3d at 397; see also Davenport v. Lockwood, Andrews &
Newnam, Inc., 854 F.3d 905, 911 (6th Cir. 2017) (finding that the
Mason panel did not reach the issue of whether § 1332(d)(4)(A)(ii)
applied to the Mason complaint, but that the uncontroverted record
showed it was the “first class action filed in the Flint water crisis”).
It is unclear from the record in Mason whether either the district
court or the Sixth Circuit were aware of the existence and filing of this
Regardless, the Court must enforce the plain language of the
statute, and determine whether this case was actually the first-filed
class action in Michigan state court, because the Mason court did not
address this issue.
This case was filed on January 19, 2016, and Mason was filed six
days later on January 25, 2016. Plaintiffs stipulate that this case and
Mason assert “the same or similar factual allegations against any of the
defendants on behalf of the same or other persons.” (Dkt. 51 at 4.) On
February 4, 2017, however, plaintiffs amended their complaint to add
Veolia as defendants.
Under CAFA, the procedural rules of the state court in which a
complaint was filed are used to determine the date of filing. See Hall v.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 215 F. App’x 423, 427-28 (6th Cir. 2007)
(analyzing CAFA’s local controversy exception with regard to an
amended complaint that added new parties).
In Michigan, “an
amendment generally relates back to the date of the original filing if the
new claim asserted arises out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence
set forth in the original pleading, MCR 2.118(D), [but] the relation-back
doctrine does not extend to the addition of new parties.” Emp’rs Mut.
Cas. Co. v. Petroleum Equip., Inc., 190 Mich. App. 57, 63 (1991) (citing
Garner v. Stodgel, 175 Mich. App. 241, 249 (1989)).
substitution of a new party “in [an] amended complaint constitute[s] the
‘commencement’ of a new action for purposes of CAFA.” Hall, 215 F.
App’x at 428.1
Accordingly, plaintiffs’ amended complaint, filed on February 24,
2017, and adding the Veolia parties, constitutes a new action under
CAFA. Because there was at least one earlier-filed class action that
contained virtually identical allegations against the same or similar
Plaintiffs do not disagree on this point, but argue that the proper consideration is
not whether their amended complaint constitutes a newly filed action for the
purposes of CAFA, but instead whether anyone else filed a similar class action
within the meaning of CAFA “in the three years preceding this action.” (Dkt. 51 at
2 n.2.) For the reasons set forth above, this “action” commenced for the purposes of
CAFA when the second amended complaint was filed, adding new defendants.
Based on the record agreed on by the parties, numerous similar class actions were
filed before that date, including Mason.
defendants in Mason, the local controversy exception does not apply
here. The Court must retain jurisdiction.
For the reasons set forth above, it is hereby ordered that:
Plaintiffs’ motion to remand (Dkt. 33) is DENIED;
This case is consolidated with Case No. 16-cv-10444 for all
purposes, including trial;
All subsequent papers filed after the date of this order regarding
this case shall be entered in Case No. 16-cv-10444;
This case is closed for administrative purposes; and
No filing in this case need be entered in 16-cv-10444, in which a
master amended class action complaint will be filed on or before
September 29, 2017.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: August 14, 2017
Ann Arbor, Michigan
s/Judith E. Levy
JUDITH E. LEVY
United States District Judge
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing document was served
upon counsel of record and any unrepresented parties via the Court’s
ECF System to their respective email or First Class U.S. mail addresses
disclosed on the Notice of Electronic Filing on August 14, 2017.
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