Prantil v. Arkema Inc., No. 19-20723 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed a class action against Arkema, a chemicals facility that combusted during Hurricane Harvey, seeking redress for the physical and financial effects of the incident, which released toxic ash and smoke into the surrounding communities and caused the evacuation of nearby residents.
The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's class certification order and remanded for further proceedings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The court explained that, when the cementing of relationships among proffered class members of liability or damages or both turns on scientific evidence, the court must insist that the metric of admissibility be the same for certification and trial. Therefore, the Daubert hurdle must be cleared when scientific evidence is relevant to the decision to certify. In its certification order, the court concluded that the district court was not as searching in its assessment of the expert reports' reliability as it would have been outside the certification setting. Furthermore, the district court's certification order did not discuss the considerations affecting the administration of trial, and it concluded that common questions would predominate without adequately addressing Arkema's arguments that causation, injury, and damages would be highly individualized. The court also concluded that the relative balance of concededly common claim elements to contested elements of causation and injury warrants closer attention. Finally, the court concluded that the current record does not compel the conclusion that plaintiffs' medical and property injuries are incapable of being addressed by classwide injunctions. The court remanded for further proceedings.