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Romano v. Northrop Grumman Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

December 15, 2017

ROSALIE ROMANO, PATRICIA GLUECKERT, WILLIAM P. GLUECKERT, FRANCISCO PASTOLERO, MARIA SPICER, JOHN VARGHESE, JAYNE MANN, DENISE FLORIO, ROSS MEADOW, ARLENE MEADOW, JACOB KHOLODNY, BELLA KHOLODNY, FLO RAUCCI, DANIEL GALLANTE and JENNIFER GALLANTE, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORPORATION, NORTHROP GRUMMAN SYSTEMS CORPORATION, and TOWN OF OYSTER BAY, Defendants.

          For Plaintiffs: Napoli Shkolnik PLLC 360 Lexington Ave., 1st Floor New York, New York 10017 By: Hunter Shkolnik, Esq. Paul J. Napoli, Esq, Imbesi Law P.C. 450 Seventh Avenue, 14th Floor New York, New York 10123 By:Brittany Weiner, Esq. Vincent Imbesi, Esq.

          For Defendants Northrop Grumman Corp. and Northrop Grumman Sys.Corp. Hollingsworth LLP 1350 I Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20005 By:Frank Leone, Esq. Donald W. Fowler, Esq. Morrison & Foerster LLP 250 West 55th Street New York, New York 10019 By:Grant Esposito, Esq. Jessica Kaufman, Esq.

          For Defendant Town of Oyster Bay: Milber Makris Plousadis & Seiden LLP 1000 Woodbury Road, Suite 402 Woodbury, New York, 11797 By:Peter Tamigi, Esq.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          DENIS R. HURLEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The purpose of this memorandum is to address the motion of plaintiffs to remand this case back to state court.

         BACKGROUND

         This putative class action was filed on September 13, 2016, in Nassau County Supreme Court on behalf of current and former residents and property owners of Bethpage, New York (“Plaintiffs” or the “Class”) asserting various state law causes of action against defendants Northrop Grumman Corporation (“NG”) and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation (“NGSC”) (collectively “Northrop”) for injuries and damages allegedly suffered as a result of the release of hazardous substances from its former site of approximately 635 acres in East-Central Nassau County, formerly known as the Grumman-Aerospace-Bethpage Facility Site (“the Site”)[1], as well as 18 acres of land donated by Grumman to the Town of Oyster Bay and currently known as Bethpage Community Park (the “Park”).[2] The Site includes the Northrop Grumman-Bethpage Facility, the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant -Bethpage (“NWIRP”), and the Grumman Steel Lose Site. (See Compl. ¶¶ 1-66.) According to the Complaint, “[o]ver its almost six decade existence, Grumman, an airplane, weapons and satellite manufacturer with significant U.S. Department of Defense contracts, generated, stored, and disposed of toxic contaminants and manufacturing byproducts . . . at its facilities and at landfills . . . . These practices resulted in extensive pollution at or emanating from Grumman Facilities identified in [the] Complaint.” (Compl. ¶ 3.)

         On October 14, 2016, Northrop filed a Notice of Removal, setting forth the following bases for removal: (1) there exists complete diversity under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); (2) the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d), 1453, 1711-15, confers original jurisdiction and (3) actions taken by Northrop Grumman satisfy the federal-officer removal statute under 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(B). That same day Northrop also filed its answer.

         On November 4, 2016, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint (“AC”). As relevant to the current motion, the amended complaint added the Town of Oyster Bay (“Town” or “Oyster Bay”) as a Defendant. With respect to the Town, the amended complaint alleges that the Town is the current owner and operator of the Park, within which is an area of approximately 3.75 acres which formerly contained “Grumman Settling Ponds” which was used to dispose of various wastes generated by industrial operations at the Site resulting in the releases of PCBs into the surrounding soil. (AC ¶¶ 59-62.) Pursuant to a March 18, 2005 Administrative Consent Order with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYDEC”), the Town was “required and obligated to develop and implement a remedial program to undertake a clean-up of Park property because of the presence of hazardous waste and contamination” at the Park. (AC ¶ 64.) In July 2005 the Town entered into an order for an interim remedial measure to investigate and remediate 7 acres of the Park. Thereafter the Town “was formally identified as a potential responsible party (PRP) and has been responsible for continued contamination emanating from the Park . . . .” (AC ¶ 65.) It is alleged that despite the foregoing orders, the groundwater from the Park has continued to migrate resulting in volatile organic compounds (“VOCS”) seeping into the groundwater and have moved into the soil vapor of Plaintiffs, affecting the indoor air quality. (AC ¶ 66.)

         The allegations in the amended complaint against Northrop are essentially unchanged from those in the complaint.

         After the filing of the amended complaint, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion to remand, arguing that (1) removal is not appropriate because the adverse parties are not completely diverse; (2) the Home State and Local Controversy exceptions to CAFA mandate that this Court abstain from exercising jurisdiction; and (3) Northrop does not satisfy the requirements of the Federal Officer Removal Statute. Both Northrop and the Town oppose the motion. Because, as discussed below, the Court finds jurisdiction exists under CAFA, it need not address the other bases asserted for jurisdiction.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Governing Standard

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and “removal jurisdiction exists in a given case only when that jurisdiction is expressly conferred on the courts by Congress.” Bedminster Fin. Grp., Ltd. v. Umami Sustainable Seafood, Inc., 2013 WL 1234958, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2013) (quoting Fed. Ins. Co. v. Tyco Int'l Ltd., 422 F.Supp.2d 357, 367 (S.D.N.Y. 2006)). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, removal is permitted for any civil action, commenced in a state court, over which a federal court has original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Bounds v. Pine BeltMental Health Care Res., 593 F.3d 209, 215 (2d Cir. 2010). Where, as here, jurisdiction is asserted by a defendant in a ...


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