Hendrick v. Georgia Gulf Lake Charles, LLC, 2008 WL 65264 (W.D. La.).

I bet you are thinking, oh boy, here comes another Katrina case. Well, contrary to public opinion, there are things that happen in Louisiana that are not a direct result of Katrina. This case is one of many filed in Louisiana state court arising from a spill of ethylene dichloride from the Georgia Gulf Lake Charles, LLC (“Georgia Gulf”) facility on September 17, 2006. These cases were not filed as class actions in state court. Instead, multiple cases with multiple plaintiffs were filed. 

The reported case provides no details of the plaintiffs’ claims. A review of the petition filed in state court reveals that Georgia Gulf’s EDC cracking furnace failed causing a leak of vapors which ignited and caused an explosion. The plaintiffs are residents living in the vicinity of the Georgia Gulf facility that allegedly inhaled the fumes. 

Georgia Gulf removed the case to the Federal District Court for the Western District of Louisiana under 18 U.S.C. § 1441(a) contending that the federal court had original diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1332(a). Gulf Georgia asserted good old fashioned diversity jurisdiction because Georgia Gulf is a limited liability company with its sole member a Georgia resident.

Here is where the plaintiffs attempted to get creative and turned to the provisions of CAFA. The plaintiffsargued that under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(10), Georgia Gulf was a Louisiana resident. This provision provides: “For the purposes of this subsection and section 1453, an unincorporated association shall be deemed to be a citizen of the State where is has its principal place of business and the State under whose laws it is organized.”

The court recognized that this section does indeed provide a different rule for determining the citizenship of an unincorporated association. One problem for the plaintiffs, however, is that the provisions application is limited to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d) and 28 U.S.C. § 1453 (i.e. class actions). Nice try plaintiffs. Proceed in federal court.  (S. Tolson)