BARLOW v. COLGATE PALMOLIVE CO., NO. 13-1839
Decided: April 30, 2014
The Fourth Circuit held that the district court correctly denied Colgate Palmolive Company’s (Colgate) motion for vacatur seeking to strike the order remanding the case to state court.
Two plaintiffs filed separate lawsuits against multiple companies, including Colgate, alleging that the companies’ products exposed the plaintiffs to asbestos. On the basis of diversity jurisdiction, Colgate removed both cases to federal court. At this juncture, the only viable claim identified was against Colgate for a specific line of cosmetic products. As the other defendants were nondiverse companies and there existed the possibility that after further discovery the plaintiffs could recover against the nondiverse defendants, the district court granted the plaintiffs’ motion to remand the cases to state court. However, on remand, the plaintiffs moved to consolidate their cases, now alleging that the only source of both plaintiffs’ asbestos exposure was Colgate’s line of products. Colgate, seeking to strike the court’s remand to state court, argued that plaintiffs’ misrepresentations justify an exception to the general rule that federal courts are precluded from reviewing an order to remand a case, previously removed to federal court, to state court.
The federal removal statute precludes federal courts from reviewing remands to state court for lack of subject matter or defects in the removal procedure. The Court was unpersuaded by Colgate’s argument that an exception should exist when remand was based on a party’s misrepresentation. The Court found no indication in the federal removal statute that Congress intended the prohibition to apply only when the parties acted with integrity. Colgate also argued that its motion seeking vacatur of the remand did not require “review” of the order to remand the case to state court. Rather Colgate sought vacatur as a sanction for the plaintiffs’ misrepresentations. Because Colgate’s motion would necessarily involve review of the remand and Congress did not create the exception that Colgate argued should apply, the Court held that the district court correctly denied Colgate’s motion for vacatur.
-Amanda K. Reasoner