United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
JAMES ADAMS, on behalf of himself and other Oklahoma citizens similarly situated, Plaintiff,
EAGLE ROAD OIL LLC, CUMMINGS OIL COMPANY, TERRITORY RESOURCES, LLC, ENERVEST OPERATING, L.L.C., PETRO WARRIOR, L.L.C., PETROQUEST ENERGY, L.L.C., and TRINITY OPERATING USG LLC, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
GREGORY K. FRIZZELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on the Motion to Remand [Doc.
46] of plaintiff James Adams, on behalf of himself and other
Oklahoma citizens similarly situated (collectively,
“plaintiffs”). For the reasons discussed below,
the motion is granted.
case has a lengthy procedural history-spanning almost three
years-which the court does not attempt to comprehensively
summarize. Rather, relevant to the instant motion, on
November 17, 2016, plaintiffs filed the Class Action Petition
in the District Court in and for Pawnee County, Oklahoma
against defendants Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company,
and John Does. [Doc. 2-3]. On December 21, 2016, Cummings Oil
removed the case to the Northern District of Oklahoma on the
basis of federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331, where it was designated No. 16-CV-757 and
randomly assigned to U.S. District Judge Claire V. Eagan.
[Doc. 2-9]. On April 12, 2017, Judge Eagan concluded the
court lacked federal question jurisdiction and therefore
remanded the case back to the District Court for Pawnee
County. [Doc. 2-13].
filed the Third Amended Complaint-the operative pleading in
this matter-on August 27, 2018 in the District Court for
Pawnee County. In addition to previously named defendants
Eagle Road and Cummings, the Third Amended Complaint named as
defendants Territory Resources, LLC; Enervest Operating,
L.L.C.; Petro Warrior, L.L.C.; PetroQuest Energy, L.L.C.; and
Trinity Operating (USG) LLC for the first time. [Doc. 2-1].
Trinity removed the case to this court pursuant to the Class
Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) provisions of 28
U.S.C. § 1332(d). [Doc. 2, p. 2, ¶ 5]. Plaintiffs
now ask the court to decline jurisdiction and remand, and
Enervest and Trinity have responded. [Doc. 91 and Doc. 93].
contend the court should decline to exercise jurisdiction and
remand is proper pursuant to § 1332(d)(4)(A), the local
controversy exception to CAFA jurisdiction. [Doc. 46]. The
exception “is intended to respond to concerns that
class actions with a truly local focus should not be moved to
federal court under this legislation because state courts
have a strong interest in adjudicating such disputes.”
Coffey v. Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold, 581
F.3d 1240, 1243 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting S. Rep. No. 109-14,
at 39 (2005)). As the party seeking remand, plaintiffs bear
the burden of showing jurisdiction is improper in this
court. Woods v. Standard Ins.
Co., 771 F.3d 1257, 1262 (10th Cir. 2014). With respect
to the exception, the Tenth Circuit has explained:
The local controversy exception provides that a federal court
“shall decline” jurisdiction where: (1) more than
two-thirds of the class members are citizens of the state
where the action is filed; (2) plaintiffs seek
“significant relief” from at least one local
defendant who is a citizen of the state and whose alleged
conduct forms a “significant basis” for the
claims asserted; (3) the “principal injuries”
were incurred in the state; and (4) no other class action
“has been filed asserting the same or similar factual
allegations against any of the defendants on behalf of the
same or other persons” in the three years prior.
Dutcher, 840 F.3d at 1190-91 (citing 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(d)(4)(A)). In assessing each element, the court
“bear[s] in mind that the purpose of each of these
criteria is to identify a truly local controversy-a
controversy that uniquely affects a particular locality to
the exclusion of all others.” S. Rep. No. 109-14, at 38
(2005). If a plaintiff satisfies all requirements, the court
must decline to exercise jurisdiction.
Woods, 771 F.3d at 1265; see also 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(d)(4) (“[a] district court shall
decline to exercise jurisdiction . . . .”) (emphasis
response, Enervest argues only that plaintiffs have failed to
satisfy their burden of proof with respect to the second
element-specifically, that one defendant is an Oklahoma
citizen. [Doc. 91]. Trinity contends that plaintiffs fail to
establish both the second and fourth requirement.
Specifically, Trinity argues that plaintiffs do not
demonstrate that any defendant is a significant local
defendant, and that this is not the only class action filed
in the past three years involving the same or similar
allegations against the defendants. The court first considers
the second requirement-whether plaintiffs seek
“significant relief” from at least one defendant
who is a citizen of Oklahoma and whose alleged conduct forms
a “significant basis” for plaintiffs' claims.
28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4)(A)(i)(II).
Significant Local Defendant
significant local defendant requirement stems from §
1332(d)(4)(A)(i)(II), which provides as follows:
(4) A district court shall decline to exercise jurisdiction
under paragraph (2)-
(A)(i) over a class action in which
(II) at least 1 defendant is a ...