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Florence v. Crescent Resources, Ltd. Liab. Co.

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20088
Nos. Nos. 06-13587 et al., (11th Cir., 04/18/2007)

The Eleventh Circuit held that a district court should have remanded to state court individuals' strict liability claims against a development company for groundwater and surface water contamination. The individuals initially filed their claims in Florida court, but the defendants removed the case to federal court claiming, among other things, that one of the defendants, a Florida resident, was fraudulently joined. The district court denied the individuals' motion to remand and then dismissed the Florida defendant from the lawsuit and issued a judgment in favor of the defendants. But because Florida law is unclear as to whether the defendants could, as a matter of law, be held liable for personal injury damages suffered by the individuals as a result of their exposure to environmental contaminants prior to the defendants' ownership of the contaminated land, the district court erred in concluding that the Florida defendant was fraudulently joined. Complete diversity, therefore, does not exist, and the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the cases. The individuals' motion to remand should have been granted.