Helms v. Rockwool Industries, Inc., Slip Copy, 2009 WL 2900037 (W.D. Mo., Sep 02, 2009) (NO. 09-6081-CV-SJGAF).

In this case, the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, refused to remand the case back to the Missouri state court holding that CAFA’s home state controversy was not applicable when the plaintiff also charged the foreign corporation as directly liable for the injuries.

The plaintiff, Carol Helms, filed a class action in the Circuit Court of Clinton County, Missouri, alleging that the defendants allegedly released lead, arsenic, and other chemicals causing injuries to the plaintiff and other members of the class. The plaintiff, subsequently amended her petition to add Prime Tanning Corp. (“Missouri Prime”) Prime Tanning Co., Inc. (“Prime Holding”); National Beef Leathers Court, LLC (“NBL”), and Rick Ream in addition to the defendants she named in her original petition.

Prime Holding was a Maine corporation with its principal place of business in Maine. Most other defendants and at least two-thirds of all plaintiffs were Missouri citizens. NBL removed the case to federal court.

Although both sides agreed the basic elements of CAFA jurisdiction were satisfied, the plaintiff sought a remand to the state court arguing that the home state controversy exception to the CAFA jurisdiction was applicable in this action. The plaintiff would be entitled to the home state controversy only if she was able to show that all the primary defendants were Missouri citizens. 

While Missouri Prime was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Prime Holding, the plaintiff referred to Missouri Prime and Prime Holding as one, and did not distinguish the liability sought from Prime Holding as vicarious. The plaintiff contended that Prime Holding – a Maine citizen – was not a primary defendant because she purportedly sought only to impose vicarious liability. However, the amended petition evidenced her intention to hold Prime Holding directly liable for her and class members’ injuries. In fact, the term vicarious liability did not appear in the amended petition, and she charged all defendants, including Prime Holding, for the injuries. As a result, the District Court held that the home state controversy exception was not applicable in this case.

Remember Horton Hatches an Egg, a children’s story by Dr. Suess…. Horton had words of wisdom, we should all remember. “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant…”