The Ninth Circuit recently reversed a district court ruling that plaintiffs’ mass toxic tort action fell within the “local single event exception” to federal jurisdiction under Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”).  CAFA provides that the term “mass action” does not include a civil action in which all of the claims in the action arose “from the same event or occurrence in the State in which the action was filed, and allegedly resulted in injuries in that State or in States contiguous to that State.”  Allen v. The Boeing Co., Case Number 15-35162 (April 17, 2015).

Over 100 residents (“Plaintiffs”) of the State of Washington filed a complaint against The Boeing Company (“Boeing”) and Landau Associates (“Landau”) in state court alleging (1) that for over 40 years Boeing released solvents that allegedly contained hazardous chemicals in its aircraft parts into the groundwater around its facility in Auburn, Washington, and (2) that for over a 10 years that Laundau (a remediation company hired by Boeing to clean up the contaminated ground water) was negligent in its investigation and remediation of the pollution created by the release toxins.  Plaintiffs claimed that they incurred property damage as a result of the groundwater contamination.  Boeing removed the case to Federal Court under CAFA and based on diversity jurisdiction.  The district court remanded the case back to state court, finding there was not complete diversity between the parties and because plaintiffs’ action fell under the “local single event” exception to CAFA federal jurisdiction.  Boeing appealed.

The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and remanded the case back to federal court.  The Ninth Circuit rejected the district court’s reliance on Third Circuit’s broad definition of local single event – treating a continuing set of circumstances collectively as an event or occurrence for the purposes of a mass action exclusion.  The Ninth Circuit found it was bound by the narrower definition of “event or occurrence” as enunciated in Nevada v. Bank of America Corp., 672 F.3d 661 (9th Cir. 2012). The Court further reviewed the legislative history of CAFA and found no support for the broader definition used by the Third Circuit.

To read the complete opinion, please go to 

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2015/04/27/15-35162.pdf