CAFA Class Action Defense Cases–Lloyd v. General Motors: Maryland Federal Court Denies Motion To Remand Class Action Holding That Under Maryland Law Amendment Adding New Plaintiffs Commenced New Action Under Class Action Fairness Act
Products Liability Class Action Complaint Originally Filed in 1999 Removable under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act) because Maryland Law Holds Amendments that Add New Party Plaintiffs do not Relate Back so 2007 Amendment to Add New Named Plaintiffs Commenced New Class Action under CAFA Maryland Federal Court Holds
In 1999, plaintiffs filed a putative class action in Maryland state court against four automobile manufacturers seeking “damages arising from the cost of replacing allegedly defective seating systems”; Eight years later, defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court on the ground that removal jurisdiction existed under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA). Lloyd v. General Motors Corp., 560 F.Supp.2d 420, 421 (D.Md. 2008). Plaintiffs did not dispute that their class action involved more than 100 plaintiffs, or that the amount in controversy was more than $5,000,000, or that the minimal diversity test under CAFA had been met. Id., at 423 n.3. Instead, plaintiffs moved to remand the class action to state court on the ground that the Class Action Fairness Act applies only to class actions “commenced” on or after February 18, 2005 – long after they had filed their class action complaint in this case. Id., at 421. Defense attorneys countered that plaintiffs’ fourth amended class action complaint materially changed the lawsuit so as to “commence” a new action within the meaning of CAFA. Id. The district court agreed and denied the motion to remand the class action state court.
The initial class action complaint alleged that the seating systems in defendants' cars were “unreasonably dangerous” because they were “susceptible to rearward collapse in the event of a rear-end collision.” Lloyd, at 421. Over the following six months, plaintiffs amended the class action complaint three times “adding several new named plaintiffs and significantly expanding the class of relevant automobiles.” Id. In March 2000, the Maryland state court granted defendants' motion to dismiss the third amended class action complaint “ruling that the Plaintiffs had failed to plead actual injury and that their claims were barred by the economic loss doctrine.” Id., at 422. The case was tied up in the appellate courts until February 2008, when the Maryland Court of Appeals reinstated the class action complaint. Id. (citing Lloyd v. General Motors Corp., 916 A.2d 257 (Md. 2007). On August 19, 2007, plaintiffs filed a fourth amended class action complaint that, in the district court’s words, “alter[ed] their claims in three significant respects: first, by adding five new named plaintiffs, three of whom were never a part of the putative class; second, by including in the putative class lessees of class vehicles for model years 1988-2005; and third, by including in the putative class owners of class vehicles for model years 1988-89 and 2000-2005. “ Id. It was based on these amendments that defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court, arguing that under CAFA a new action had been “commenced” after February 18, 2005. Id.