Plaintiffs are individuals who were adversely affected by power outages following Hurricane Ida and filed a class action lawsuit in State Court alleging that Entergy negligently designed, operated, and maintained the electricity transmission system, which led to power outages in the wake of the storm. Entergy removed this case to Federal Court. Plaintiffs moved to remand, and the District Court granted the remand motion. Accepting a discretionary appeal, the U.S. Fifth Circuit affirmed.
“To determine whether two-thirds of a proposed class are citizens of the state in which a class action was originally filed, we must first define the class…. Here, the petition asserts that the class action is brought ‘on behalf of all residents of the East Bank of Jefferson Parish and all residents of Orleans Parish.’ The petition then states: ‘Until a more precise determination is made of all residents of the East Bank of Jefferson Parish and all residents of Orleans Parish affected by the failure of the Transmission System, the Plaintiffs allege that the class consists of all persons affected by power outages and residing in the Parishes of within the service area of Entergy who sustained personal, mental, and economic damages and/or inconvenience as a result of the failure of the Transmission System resulting from Hurricane Ida.’
“We conclude that, whatever the Plaintiffs may have meant, we must construe the petition as written and the proper reading of these two paragraphs, the first one limiting the class to portions of Jefferson and all of Orleans parish and the second one referencing those parishes and then referring to the Parishes, i.e., those parishes, means that the class definition is quite limited in scope: it consists of Louisiana residents and businesses in the East Bank of Jefferson and Orleans Parishes affected by the relevant power outages. Focusing narrowly on the phrase ‘all persons’ and the allegation that Entergy ‘provides services to 3 million customers in 4 states,’ Entergy argues that the class definition must include persons residing outside Louisiana. That interpretation, however, is belied by a plain reading of the petition. Even if one could read the petition more broadly than the conclusion above, of the four states served by Entergy, only Louisiana uses the word ‘parish’ to describe its geographic subdivisions. This should end the matter, but even if we set this compelling fact aside (as Entergy urges us to do) our conclusion remains the same. The petition states that the class action is brought on behalf of residents of two specific parishes; makes repeated references to Louisiana generally and southeast Louisiana specifically; and describes how Entergy’s alleged negligence affected the Ninth Ward, the French Quarter, and the Central Business District – all neighborhoods located within New Orleans. Even if, as Entergy suggests, the class might include residents outside East Bank of Jefferson and Orleans Parishes, it is still limited to those residents in parishes served by Entergy (i.e., those in Louisiana). Considering the petition as a whole, we cannot determine that other states are involved.
“With the class defined, we next determine if the district court clearly erred in concluding that two-thirds of proposed class members are Louisiana citizens…. Based on the class definition and facts alleged, it’s evident that this class will consist overwhelmingly of Louisiana citizens and corporations. To support that reasonable assumption, Plaintiffs adduced an informal survey establishing that many of the proposed class members are indeed Louisiana citizens. Entergy takes issue with the survey, asserting that its informal nature renders it ‘essentially useless’ in assessing the citizenship of the full proposed class. We understand Entergy’s arguments regarding the survey’s methodology and reliability, but its conclusions merely support what a commonsense presumption based on the class definition and the factual allegations dictates. At the very least, it was not clearly erroneous for the district court to rely on the survey in reaching its conclusion that at least two-thirds of the proposed class members are Louisiana citizens.”
Stewart v. Entergy, No.22-30177, 2022 WL 1711659 (5th Cir. May 27, 2022).