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Hart v. Bayer Corp.

ELR Citation: 30 ELR 20256
Nos. Nos. 98-60496, -60811, 199 F.3d 239/(5th Cir., 01/06/2000)

The court holds that a district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over crop owners' state-law claims against various pesticide corporations and, thus, the corporations improperly removed the claims to federal court. The court first holds that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is not a complete preemption statute, and, therefore, no federal question jurisdiction existed in this case. Because the crop owners set forth only state-law claims, the corporations relied on the complete preemption exception, which recharacterizes state-law claims as federal claims if federal law completely preempts a field of state law. The corporations argued that FIFRA by its express prohibitions on state-imposed labeling or packaging requirements, completely preempted all state common-law claims in the field of pesticide regulation. However, FIFRA does not preempt all state or local regulation of pesticides. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has expressly held that FIFRA does not preempt local pesticide ordinances. Further, FIFRA's text allows states to regulate the sale or use of any federally registered pesticide.

The court next holds that there is not the complete diversity of citizenship necessary to maintain jurisdiction. Crop owners and a joined defendant are from Mississippi. Further, based on a review of the pleadings, the corporations could not prove that the in-state defendant was fraudulently joined to defeat diversity citizenship because the corporations failed to demonstrate that there is no possibility that the crop owners could establish a cause of action against the in-state defendant.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Brian C. Wolfman
Public Citizen Litigation Group
1600 20th St. NW, Washington DC 20009
(202) 588-1000

Counsel for Defendants
Rebecca Lee Wiggs
Watkins & Eager
400 E. Capitol St., Jackson MS 39201
(601) 948-6470

Before Davis and Duhe, JJ.