CAJUNS FOR CLEAN WATER, LLC ET AL.
CECELIA WATER CORPORATION D/B/A CECILIA WATER CORPORATION, ET AL.
FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST.
MARTIN, NO. 82253 HONORABLE PAUL J. DEMAHY, DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael Parker L. Adam Thames Taylor, Porter, Brooks &
Phillips, LLP Attorneys for Defendant/Appellant Cecelia Water
Rachael S. Kellogg Schafer & Schafer, LLP Attorney for
Defendant/Appellant American Alternative Insurance
Jacques P. Soileau Attorney for Plaintiffs/Appellees
Jacqueline Berard, Glenn Richardson, Laci Soileau and Cajuns
for Clean Water, LLC.
composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, John D. Saunders and Elizabeth
A. Pickett, Judges.
R. COOKS JUDGE
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Berard, Brandi Berard and Cajuns for Clean Water, LLC
(Plaintiffs) filed suit against Cecelia Water Corporation
d/b/a Cecilia Water Corporation (CWC) and their insurer,
American Alternative Insurance Corporation, alleging damages
as a result of poor water quality, no and/or low water
pressure, arsenic contamination, bacterial contamination, and
insufficient water supplied to meet ordinary daily needs of
Plaintiffs. In the "First Supplemental and Amending
Petition," Glenn Richardson and Laci Soileau joined as
additional Plaintiffs adopting all claims made by the
original Plaintiffs and seeking the same relief for damages.
Plaintiffs filed a "Motion to Certify Class"
seeking to convert this suit to a class action pursuant to
the provisions of La.Code Civ.P. art. 591, asserting there
are approximately 11, 700 potential putative class members
who have sustained injuries as a result of Defendant's
alleged actions and inactions concerning their supplying
water to the local population served by (CWC). After a full
hearing on the matter the trial court rendered judgment
granting Plaintiffs' motion for class certification.
The trial court defined the class as follows:
All persons, businesses, or entities who belong to at least
one of the following three groups, and who as a direct result
of receiving their water service from Cecelia Water
Corporation between December 1, 2010 and February 2015, have
at least one of the following claims: mental and emotional
distress; non-reimbursed personal expenses, non-reimbursed
business expenses; loss of personal income; loss of business
income; nuisance, annoyance, discomfort, and inconvenience;
trespass; personal injury including fear of contraction of
disease or illness; economic damages or property damage.
1. Households and their residents who at any time between
December 1, 2010 and February 28, 2015, were receiving their
water supply from the Cecelia Water Corporation;
2. Owners and/or occupants of businesses, schools or health
care facilities who at any time between December 1, 2010 and
February 28, 2015, were receiving their water supply to that
business, school, or health care facility from the Cecelia
3. Lessor/Lessees of residential and/or commercial property
who at any time between December 1, 2010 and February 28,
2015, were receiving their water supply to that property from
the Cecelia Water Corporation.
trial court also confirmed Jacqueline Berard and Glenn
Richardson as representatives of the class and confirmed
Jacques Pierre Soileau and W. Glenn Soileau as counsel for
the Class. Further, the trial court prohibited any contact
between defense counsel and the class representatives or
class members regarding this class action suit "unless
otherwise approved by [the] Court in advance." The trial
court rendered an eight-page written reasons for judgment
setting forth its findings of fact and detailing its reasons
for concluding Plaintiffs satisfied the numerosity,
commonality, typicality, and adequacy requirements of
La.CodeCiv.P. art 591(A) as well as its reasons for
identifying an objectively definable class of claimants.
Plaintiffs also presented evidence satisfying "one or
more criteria of La.C.C.P. art. 591(B)" according to the
appeal the trial court's order granting class
certification and the trial court's definition of the
class, asserting the trial court failed to "perform a
rigorous analysis of the claims and defenses presented."
They also assert Plaintiffs failed to establish commonality,
predominance and superiority "because they cannot prove
breach, causation, and damages on a class-wide basis."
Additionally, Defendants maintain the trial court erroneously
based its finding of "numerosity" on the
"number of potentially aggrieved parties" rather
than on the "number of individuals actually
supreme court has made clear "any errors to be made in
deciding class action issues should be in favor of and not
against the maintenance of the class action."
McCastle v. Rollins Environmental Services of Louisiana,
Inc., 456 So.2d 612, 618 (La. 1984). In Baker v.
PHC-Minden, L.P., 14-2243 p. 12, 167 So.3d 528, 538
(emphasis added), the supreme court also set forth the
applicable appellate standard of review:
A trial court has wide discretion in deciding whether to
certify a class. Brooks, 08-2035 at p. 10, 13 So.3d at
554. Subject to the manifest error standard, its factual
findings can only be reversed upon finding, based on the
entire record, no reasonable factual basis for the factual
finding and the factfinder is clearly wrong. Stobart v.
State, through Department of Transp. and Development,
617 So.2d 880, 882 (La.1993). However, we review its ultimate
decision of whether or not to certify the class under the
abuse of discretion standard. Dupree, 09- 2602 at p.
7, 51 So.3d at 680. Implicit therein "is recognition
of the essentially factual basis of the certification inquiry
and of the district court's inherent power to manage and
control pending litigation." Brooks, 08-2035 at p.
11, 13 So.3d at 554.
full review of the record we cannot say the trial court's
factual findings are manifestly erroneous. The record is
replete with evidence which wholly supports the trial
court's well-reasoned decision regarding class
certification and its thoughtful definition of the class.
Further, we find no abuse of discretion in the trial
court's ultimate decision to grant certification of this
matter as a class action. We are impressed with the trial
court's detailed reasons for judgment and quote at length
Plaintiffs, customers of Cecelia water Corporation
("Cecelia"), have brought this suit against Cecelia
alleging continued problems with water quality and quantity.
They have alleged that over the course of several years
Cecelia has provided water of inadequate quality and
quantity. As of 2014 the Defendant Cecelia Water Corporation
had roughly 3, 776 customers.
As to water quantity, Plaintiffs have alleged that water is
regularly rendered by Cecelia to their homes as low to no
water pressure. The evidence shows that the Cecelia Water
Corporation has had continual and ongoing problems with water
pressure and providing water to its customers in adequate
amounts. In 1996 an extensive engineering report was written
documenting Cecelia's inability to meet demand and
Cecelia's low water pressure problems. The 1996 report
recommemnded that a new plant be built on the Western end of
the system at the D'Augerau Road location. Recognizing
this continuing low-pressure problem, Cecelia has continued
to discuss building a new plant at the D'Augerau Road
location over the years. However, to date no new plant has
Despite the documented demand problems, Cecelia has continued
adding water lines and customers to its system throughout the
years. Cecelia applied for a rate increase to the Louisiana
Public Service Commission (LPSC), again noting the demand
problems with their system and their inability to provide
adequate amounts of water to the existing customer base. The
proposed rate increase would cover the cost of a new plant at
the D'Augereau Road location. This solution had been
identified and proposed sixteen (16) years earlier in the
1996 engineering report. The 2011 rate increase to build the
new plant was ultimately granted by the LPSC. Cecelia
customers have been paying for a new plant now for over five
years now. (sic) That plant has still not even begun to be
In 2015 Cecelia applied for a second rate increase with the
LPSC, again citing the problems with demand and the need to
build a new plant at the D'augereau Road location. The
LPSC denied Cecelia's second rate increase application.
The LPSC stated that one rate increase had already been
granted for the new plant and Cecelia had still not even