Case over alleged injuries from living next to landfill remanded back to St. Louis county court

By Marian Johns | Apr 10, 2019

ST. LOUIS – A federal court has remanded a case filed by a Missouri man who alleges he suffered negative health effects due to long-term radiological waste exposure from a landfill back to the St. Louis County Circuit Court.

According to the March 13 memorandum and order, plaintiffs Marc and Jill Czapla's lawsuit against defendants Republic Services Inc., et al. alleges that Marc's negative health issues are a result of his growing up near the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, which contains radiological waste.  

"In light of this court's more recent understanding of the forum defendant rule and the string of cases applying the rule to pre-service removal, the undersigned agrees that diversity jurisdiction is not properly present in this case because defendants removed it before any defendant was served," Judge John Ross wrote in the order.

After Bridgeton Landfill removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in March 2018 , the plaintiffs petitioned the court to remand the case back to the lower court. 

The plaintiffs argued the parties "are not completely diverse" and the defendants' attempt to invoke federal jurisdiction is "impermissible," the ruling states. The plaintiffs cited that the forum defendant rule "prohibits removal of this case" while the defendants argue the rule did not apply because one of the defendants, Rock Road Industries, had not been served at the time the case was removed. 

The defendants argued that the plaintiffs' claims arise under federal law and that federal court is the appropriate jurisdiction. They cited the Price-Anderson Act and argued federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction even if the plaintiff does not "plead federal questions that are essential elements of the plaintiff's claim," the ruling states.

Ross stated that based on the court's understanding of the forum defendant rule, diversity jurisdiction is not presented in this case because of the defendant's removal prior to Rock Road being served. 

Ross concluded that the court cannot "maintain jurisdiction over this suit" due to diversity and granted the plaintiff's motion to remand the case to the St. Louis County Circuit Court.

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