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Thigpen v. Florida Gas Transmission Co. L.L.C.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana

March 23, 2015

THIGPEN
v.
FLORIDA GAS TRANSMISSION COMPANY, L.L.C. ET AL.

SECTION: “J” (1).

ORDER & REASONS

CARL J. BARBIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court is Defendant Florida Gas Transmission Company, L.L.C. (Florida Gas)’s Motion to Strike Class Allegations (Rec. Doc. 19), which is unopposed. Having considered the motion and memorandum of counsel, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be GRANTED for the reasons set forth more fully below.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This litigation derives from a natural gas ignition that occurred on June 18, 2013, in Enon, Louisiana. (Rec. Doc. 7-1) Plaintiff alleges that Florida Gas owns, operates, and maintains the "Line 200" natural gas transmission pipeline, which runs from western Louisiana to Brooker, Florida. (Rec. Doc. 1, p. 3) Plaintiff further alleges that a 30-inch diameter section of the "Line 200" pipeline ruptured and exploded on her property. Id. at 4-5. The resulting fire damaged her home and nearby timberlands and forests. Id.

On June 18, 2014, Thigpen filed suit against Florida Gas and “XYZ INSURANCE COMPANY, ” a fictitious insurance company representing Florida Gas’ liability insurance provider, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated. Id. at 2-3. Thigpen’s complaint includes class allegations that seek to represent a “putative class” that is composed of,

all individuals who reside within, own property within, work in, derive income from, or use for recreation purposes, the real property located within a two mile radius of the L200 natural gas transmission pipeline owned and/or operated by Florida Gas Transmission Company, L.L.C., and who have sustained any legally cognizable loss and/or damage(s) as a result of the June 18, 2013, pipeline rupture, fire, and explosion which occurred near the town of Enon, Louisiana.

(Rec. Doc. 1, p. 8) Thigpen has alleged counts of negligence, products liability, res ipsa loquitor, and vicarious liability. (Rec. Doc. 1, p. 12) Thigpen’s complaint seeks damages, punitive damages, and all costs and attorneys’ fees associated with these proceedings. (Rec. Doc. 1, p. 16-7) On Florida Gas’s motion, this Court dismissed Thigpen’s claims for punitive damages on November 19, 2014. (Rec. Docs. 7, 16)

The instant motion seeks to strike those portions of the complaint that refer to class certification or any other references that purport to set out a claim for anyone other than Thigpen, limiting her claims to those asserted in her individual capacity.[1] (Rec. Doc. 19)

PARTIES’ ARGUMENTS

Defendant Florida Gas argues that this Court should strike any portion of the pleadings referring to class certification, because Plaintiff has failed to timely move for class certification within the time period established by Local Rule 23.1(B). Florida Gas asserts that Plaintiff’s opportunity to move for class certification expired on September 19, 2014, or 91 days after filing the complaint. Plaintiff filed the Class Action Complaint on June 18, 2014, and Local Rule 23.1(B) dictates that a party who wishes to pursue a class action must move for class certification within 91 days of filing the complaint. Florida Gas emphasizes that seven months have passed since Plaintiff has filed her Class Action Complaint, and this district has consistently applied Local Rule 23.1(B) in situations where plaintiffs have failed to move for certification over a period of many months past the deadline. Florida Gas asserts that the proper remedy for such failure to timely move for class certification is striking class allegations. Florida Gas asserts that the only way for Plaintiff’s class allegations to survive is a showing of good cause for the failure to file. However, Florida Gas urges the Court that there is no basis to find good cause for the seven month delay. Plaintiff has not opposed the motion.

LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, this Court must determine by order whether to certify an action as a class action “[a]t an early practicable time after a person sues or is sued as a class representative.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1)(A). Furthermore, the Eastern District of Louisiana has enacted Local Rule 23.1(B), which provides,

Within 91 days after the filing of a complaint in a class action or filing of a notice of removal of the class action from state court, whichever is later, plaintiff must move for class certification under FRCP 23(c)(1), unless this period ...

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