July 14, 2015 Practice Points

Ninth Circuit Adheres to Narrow Interpretation of "Local Single Event" Exception

In a 2–1 decision, the court narrowly construed the exception to apply only where all claims arise from a single event or happening rather than from a continuing set of circumstances

by Ruben F. Reyna

In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a suit brought against Boeing and its environmental remediation contractor over alleged groundwater contamination that occurred over the course of 40 years does not fall under the “local single event” exception to federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). In a 2–1 decision, the Ninth Circuit narrowly construed the exception to apply only where all claims arise from a single event or happening rather than from a continuing set of circumstances. Allen v. The Boeing Co., No. 2:14-cv-00596 (9th Cir. Apr. 27, 2015).

More than 100 Washington residents filed suit in state court, alleging that for 40 years Boeing’s Auburn Plant discharged hazardous chemicals into their groundwater and that Boeing and Boeing’s environmental remediation contractor, Landau Associates, failed to properly investigate, remediate, clean up, or warn of the contamination.

Boeing removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, invoking diversity jurisdiction and arguing that the case was a “mass action” under CAFA—which generally gives federal courts jurisdiction over class actions involving more than 100 class members or “mass actions” involving more than 100 plaintiffs.

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