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Dow Chemical Co. v. Tanoh

Class Action Fairness Act

The plaintiffs-respondents were West African men who worked on banana and pineapple plantations on the Ivory Coast. They suffered from infertility, sterility, and other serious health problems caused by exposure to a dangerous chemical, banned in the United States, in the pesticides used on the plantations. Seven groups of fewer than 100 workers each brought suit against Dow, the pesticide manufacturer, in California state court, alleging violations of state law. Dow sought to remove the seven suits to federal court, claiming jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA).

CAFA provides for federal jurisdiction over “mass actions” of at least 100 plaintiffs, but also provides that a defendant may not join claims to reach the 100-plaintiff threshold. Dow argued that the seven suits here should be considered one “mass action” anyway because the plaintiffs allegedly structured their suits to avoid federal jurisdiction under CAFA. The plaintiffs contend, and the Ninth Circuit held, that the straightforward language of CAFA specifically addresses this question and preserves the decision of the plaintiffs to bring multiple smaller suits.

Assisting the plaintiff’s counsel, we prepared the brief in opposition to certiorari. The Court denied the petition.