Hood v. Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., 2015 WL 328409 (W.D. Mo. Jan. 26, 2015)

A district court in Missouri granted a motion to remand finding that plaintiffs successfully established an exception to removal under CAFA. The Court relied on 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4),which provides, in part, that a court shall decline to exercise jurisdiction over a class action in which: (i) over two-thirds of class members are citizens of the State in which the action was originally filed; (ii) at least one defendant from whom significant relief is sought, and whose conduct forms a significant basis for the claims asserted, is a citizen of the State in which the action was originally filed; (iii) principal injuries from the alleged conduct were incurred in the State in which the action was originally filed; and (iv) no other class actions asserting the same allegations against the defendants were filed in the preceding 3-year period.

The parties disputed whether last known address information can be used to determine citizenship. Defendants cited an appellate decision from the Eleventh Circuit, in which the court deemed the class too broad, extending over an 85-year period, and plaintiffs’ attorney’s affidavit too insufficient as evidence, to satisfy the two-thirds requirement. See Evans v. Walter Industries, Inc., 449 F.3d 1159, 1164 (11th Cir. 2006). Defendants also cited In re Sprint Nextel Corp., 593 F.3d 669, 673-674 (7th Cir. 2010) (declining to rely on cellphone information in the absence of proof of citizenship) and Preston v. Tenet Healthsystem Memorial Medical Center, Inc., 485 F.3d 793, 798 (5th Cir. 2007) (declining to rely on billing addresses in medical records following mass relocations due to Hurricane Katrina).

Here, the court found the cited decisions inapposite. The potential class was not overly broad in time or location, did not involve a catastrophic circumstance like Hurricane Katrina, and was supported by both information provided by Defendant and Plaintiffs. In this case, Plaintiffs provided last-known addresses, and also confirmed by affidavit that a percentage of the class was still residing in Missouri. The Court relied on the “well-established maxim that residence is prima facie proof of citizenship,” (see Elsea v. Jackson County, Mo, 2010 WL 4386538 *4 (W.D. Mo. 2010)), and prior decisions holding that last known addresses create a rebuttable presumption that those individuals are Missouri citizens. See, e.g., Randall v. Evamor, Inc., 2010 WL 1727977, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 29, 2010).

After considering the evidence presented, the Court found that that it was more likely than not that more than two-thirds of the plaintiffs were citizens of Missouri. As the other conditions for remand under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4) were unchallenged, the Court remanded the case to state court.