United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
REBECCA R. PALLMEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
are Illinois residents who lived, at various times, in close
proximity to a sterilization facility owned and operated by
Defendant Sterigenics U.S., LLC ("Sterigenics") in
Willowbrook, Illinois. This facility, Plaintiffs assert, released
harmful emissions into the air, causing Plaintiffs to develop
various types of cancer. In 2018, Plaintiffs filed eleven
separate complaints in the Circuit Court of Cook County,
asserting various state law causes of action related to the
release of emissions from the Sterigenics
facility. The Defendants in all of these cases are
(1) Sterigenics; (2) Bob Novak, a manager at the Sterigenics
facility; (3) Roger Clark, a former supervisor at the
Sterigenics facility; and (4) GTCR, LLC ("GTCR"), a
private equity firm that holds an ownership stake in
Sterigenics. Defendants removed these cases to the Northern
District of Illinois, asserting federal jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332, 1441, and 1446. Now before
the court is Plaintiffs' Omnibus Motion to Remand. For
the reasons stated herein, Plaintiffs' motion is granted.
parties agree that the actions addressed in this opinion
"have substantially similar pleadings and all removal
petitions raise the same arguments." (Defs.' Opp.
Mot. Remand  at 1 n.1 (quoting Mot. Remand  at 1).)
The parties, moreover, appear to agree that "the
substantive allegations in the complaints are the same,"
but neither party has prepared a consolidated statement of
those allegations which bear on the jurisdictional issue.
(Mot. Remand at 1.) In preparing the summary of allegations
set forth below, the court has relied on the complaint filed
in Kamuda, et al. v. Novak et al., No. 18-cv-07313,
Exhibit A to Motion to Remand (hereinafter
"Kamuda Complaint"), recognizing that
"allegations differ slightly" across complaints.
(Mot. Remand at 1.) Because the parties have not identified
any disparities significant to the jurisdictional question,
the court assumes that the Kamuda Complaint fairly
represents the others for purposes of this motion, and deems
waived any argument based on individual factual disparities.
is a limited liability company which, in 1984, began
operating a sterilization facility in Willowbrook, Illinois
(the "Sterigenics facility"). (Id. ¶
1.) As part of its sterilization procedures, the Sterigenics
facility makes use of a gas known as ethylene oxide.
(Id.) Referring to various governmental and
non-governmental reports dating back to 1977, Plaintiffs
contend that "for more than 40 years" ethylene
oxide "has been consistently recognized as dangerous,
toxic, and carcinogenic." (Id. ¶ 41-50.)
Despite the known risk, Plaintiffs assert, the Sterigenics
facility has emitted "excessive, unnecessary, and/or
dangerous volumes" of ethylene oxide into the air
"on a routine and constant basis for 34 years."
(Id. ¶¶ 66, 77.) In doing so, Sterigenics
allegedly caused nearby residents to "unknowingly
inhal[e] [ethylene oxide] in the air they breathe . . .
." (Id. ¶¶ 1-2.) This effect was
worsened, Plaintiffs contend, by a series of decisions made
by Sterigenics in managing the Willowbrook facility,
including "failing to employ safe methods to adequately
control, reduce, minimize, and/or mitigate [ethylene oxide]
emissions from its Willowbrook facility" and
"failing to adequately study and test the effect of its
[ethylene oxide] emissions from its Willowbrook facility on
the quality of air." (Id. ¶ 77.)
complaints describe incidents that, they allege, evince
"a pattern of Sterigenics consistently failing to
implement company-wide safety measures across all its
facilities." (Id. ¶ 71.) These include
fines paid to OSHA for safety violations at the Willowbrook
facility, an accident investigated by the U.S. Chemical
Safety and Hazard Investigation Board at a California
facility, a prosecution for exceeding the local "Maximum
Permissible Risk concentration" of ethylene oxide in the
Netherlands, and anonymous employee reports of lax safety
procedures. (Id. ¶¶ 67-70.) Additionally,
Plaintiffs allege that Sterigenics failed to warn residents
of nearby communities that it was emitting ethylene oxide
into the air, and failed to adequately train its employees to
control and dispose of ethylene oxide. (Id.
¶¶ 77, 81.)
identify two Sterigenics employees allegedly involved in the
use of ethylene oxide: Bob Novak and Roger Clark. Defendant
Novak, a current resident of Illinois, allegedly began
working as the Operations Manager of the Willowbrook facility
in August 2003. (Id. ¶ 30.) In this capacity,
Plaintiffs allege, Novak has been and remains responsible for
"the operation of the facility, coordinating and
overseeing all activities in plant operations, and overall
plant safety," including "testing and analysis to
determine the nature and extent of "ethylene oxide"
emissions. (Id. ¶¶ 30, 122.) According to
Plaintiffs, Novak was responsible for a series of lapses in
safety, including, inter alia, "[p]ermitting
chamber doors to remain open during and/or after the
sterilization process and thereby allowing dangerous amounts
of ethylene oxide to escape the chamber area,"
"[f]ailing to timely order and/or replace filters for
the dry system and thereby allowing excess amounts of
ethylene oxide" to escape, and "failing to employee
safe methods to adequately control, reduce, minimize, and/or
mitigate [ethylene oxide] emissions" from the facility.
(Id. ¶ 125.)
Clark, also a resident of Illinois, was allegedly the
Maintenance Supervisor at the Willowbrook facility from the
late 1980s until approximately 2015. (Id. ¶
31.) In this capacity, according to Plaintiffs, Clark
"was responsible for calibrating the internal [ethylene
oxide] monitors and overseeing the maintenance activities at
the Sterigenics facility." (Id.) Plaintiffs
charge that Clark was also responsible for several lapses in
safety including, inter alia, "[i]naccurately
calibrating internal [ethylene oxide] monitors to allow for
erroneous monitoring results." (Id. ¶
final Defendant is GTCR, a Chicago-based private equity firm
that purchased Sterigenics in 2011. (Id. ¶ 21.)
Plaintiffs allege that, since this acquisition, GTCR has been
actively involved in managing Sterigenics's business,
including the operation of the Willowbrook facility.
(Id. ¶¶ 150, 153.) Plaintiffs thus
attribute Sterigenics' alleged acts and omissions during
and after 2011, related to the release of ethylene oxide, to
GTCR as well. (Id. ¶ 153.)
are current and former residents of Willowbrook and other
areas situated within several miles of the Sterigenics
facility; all are citizens of Illinois. (Complaints ¶
16, Ex.'s A-K to Mot. Remand.) Each has been diagnosed
with some form of cancer. (Id. ¶ 16-17.) In
2018, Plaintiffs individually filed lawsuits against
Defendants in the Circuit Court of Cook County, raising state
law claims for negligence, negligent training, negligent
supervision, willful and wanton conduct, strict liability for
ultrahazardous activity, civil battery, and public nuisance.
(See, e.g., Kamuda Complaint ¶¶
thereafter removed all eleven cases to the Northern District
of Illinois, asserting diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a) and federal question jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1331. (See, e.g., Notice of Removal
 ¶ 2; see also Mot. Remand at 1 (stating
that "all removal petitions raise the same
arguments"); Defs.' Opp. Mot. Remand at 1 n.1
(same)). On December 18, 2018, this court ordered the matters
reassigned for the limited purpose of ruling on
Plaintiffs' Omnibus Motion to Remand. (Order Granting
Motion to Reassign .) Plaintiffs filed that motion two
days later, on December 20, 2018. (Mot. Remand.)
district courts "may not exercise jurisdiction absent a
statutory basis." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah
Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005).
By statute, Congress grants federal courts jurisdiction over
two types of cases: those that "arise under"
federal law, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and those in which there
is diversity of citizenship and an amount-in-controversy
requirement is met, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Home Depot
U.S.A., Inc. v. ...