In May of 2014, Indiana residents filed a class action lawsuit arising out of alleged environmental contamination that originated at a plant formerly operated by defendant Johnson Controls, Inc. Another Defendant, Tocon Holdings LLC, had purchased the plant from Johnson Controls and later demolished it, allegedly knowing it was contaminated. It was alleged that Tocon Holdings did nothing to stop the pollution from flowing onto the homeowners’ properties or to warn them of the potential danger. The Plaintiffs, a number of individuals who own property or reside in an adjacent neighborhood, alleged that contamination primarily consisting of trichloroethylene (TCE) entered the groundwater and migrated onto their properties.
The Plaintiffs filed the action in state court, asserting a number of claims arising under state law, including common law claims for trespass, nuisance, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and punitive damages, and a statutory environmental legal action claim. The proposed class consisted of individuals who have owned, rented, or occupied properties affected by the contamination. After litigating the case in state court for nearly a year, Johnson Controls filed a notice of removal, invoking federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act. In response, the Plaintiffs moved to remand this action back to state court. However, that request was denied in July 2016. That was because the Plaintiffs had not yet satisfied their final requirement that two-thirds of the class have citizenship within Indiana.
Recently, the Plaintiffs fought back against Johnson Controls’ efforts to keep the proposed class action in federal court, claiming they have the evidence to prove their case belongs in state court and that the company is improperly fighting to block them from proving the citizenship requirement has been met. The Plaintiffs hired a statistician who they say can show the proposed class of more than 772 people met the standard. The Plaintiffs have filed a renewed motion to remand. Johnson Controls filed a motion to strike that motion, which the Plaintiffs say is not the proper response.
According to the Plaintiffs, the district court’s previous order did not find that less than two-thirds of the proposed class resides in Indiana, but rather that the Plaintiffs failed to present “statistically reliable methodology” to prove the citizenship of the class. The Plaintiffs state that the renewed motion to remand presents the type of statistically reliable evidence the court said it would need to assess the citizenship of the class.
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