Articles Posted in Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA)

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District Court Erred in Refusing Motion to Stay Class Action Against Bank and Compel Arbitration of Individual Claim based on Arbitration Clause with Class Action Waiver because Class Action Waiver, and Cost-Sharing Provision, of Arbitration Clause did not Render Provision Unconscionable Eighth Circuit Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action in Missouri state court against Chase Bank alleging that it had imposed penalties on credit card holders and that it had violated Missouri’s Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA); in essence, the class action complaint alleged that Chase improperly increased the interest rate charged on credit card balances. Cicle v. Chase Bank USA, 583 F.3d 549, 2009 WL 3172157, *1 (8th Cir. 2009). According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, plaintiff’s credit card with Chase initially “carried a 7.99% annual percentage rate (APR) on unpaid balances,” but then “increased dramatically, to 25.99%.” Id. When asked about the increase, the Bank responded that “a credit agency had reported her as past due on an unrelated loan or account, so Chase increased the APR from the 7.99% ‘Preferred Customer Pricing’ rate.” Id. Defense attorneys removed for the class action to federal court under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act of 2005) and on the ground of federal question jurisdiction under the National Bank Act (NBA). Id. The Bank then asked the district court to stay the class action to compel plaintiff to arbitrate her individual claim pursuant to the terms of the arbitration clause in her Cardmember Agreement, which included a class action waiver. Id. The district court denied the defense motion, concluding that the class action waiver and the provisions for cost-sharing were unconscionable under Missouri law, id., at *3. The Eighth Circuit reversed, holding that the class action waiver was neither substantively nor procedurally unconscionable.

The Cardmember Agreement contained an arbitration clause, governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), that required arbitration on an individual basis of any dispute with the bank; specifically, the arbitration clause contained a class action waiver, prohibiting the cardmember from bringing “a class action or other representative action” and precluding the cardmember from being “part of any class action or other representative action.” Cicle, at *1-*2. The arbitration was to be binding, and covered “any claim, dispute or controversy by either you or us against the other, or against the employees, parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, beneficiaries, agents or assigns of the other, arising from or relating in any way to the Cardmember Agreement, any prior Cardmember Agreement, your credit card Account or the advertising, application or approval of your Account (‘Claim’).” Id., at *2. The arbitration clause provided an exception for small claims court matters, id. With respect to costs, the arbitration clause provided that the Bank would pay for the filing fee (up to $500) and, “if there is a hearing, we will pay any fees of the arbitrator and arbitration administrator for the first two days of that hearing.” Id. The agreement provided that all other fees would be “allocated in keeping with the rules of the arbitration administrator and applicable law,” and that each side otherwise would be responsible for their own attorney fees and costs, regardless of whether they prevailed, unless the arbitrator orders otherwise based on “any applicable law.” Id. Reviewing the district court’s decision de novo, see id., at *3, the Eighth Circuit reversed its refusal to enforce the arbitration clause.

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Class Action Complaint Against Amazon Challenging Shipping and Handling Fees Satisfied Rule 23 Requirements for Class Action Treatment California Federal Court Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action against Amazon.com alleging violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA); specifically, the class action complaint alleged that Amazon, in addition to receiving “a sales commission and a percentage of the sales price for each item sold,” charged shipping and handling fees to buyers “without input from Marketplace Sellers” even though it was the sellers who “took care of packaging and shipping products.” Baghdasarian v. Amazon.Com, Inc., 258 F.R.D. 383, 385 (C.D. Cal. 2009). According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, Amazon failed to disclose to buyers that it kept a portion of the shipping and handling fees and this act was “fraudulent” within the meaning of the UCL and CLRA, id. Plaintiff decided not to seek class action treatment of the class action complaint’s CLRA claim, but moved for class action certification of the UCL claim. Id. Plaintiff argued that the lawsuit satisfied the requirements for class action certification under Rule 23(b)(3), id., at 386. Defense attorneys opposed class action treatment, but the district court granted the motion.

The district court first held that plaintiff had standing to prosecute the class action. See Baghdasarian, at 386-87. Specifically, the federal court held that plaintiff had standing to prosecute the class action’s UCL claim, rejecting defense arguments that plaintiff had not suffered any economic harm because he “received the benefit of his bargain.” See id., at 386-87. The court also had little difficulty in finding that the requirements of Rule 23(a) for class action certification had been met. Id., at 388-89. The court also found that the class action requirements for certification under Rule 23(b)(3) had been met. The federal court readily found that the predominance test had been satisfied, see id., at 389-90, and also concluded that a class action would be “the most efficient way to resolve the claims of all class members, especially since the individual claims are small and economically unfeasible to litigate individually,” id., at 390, thus satisfying the superiority prong of Rule 23(b)(3). Accordingly, the district court granted plaintiff’s motion for class certification, see id., at 391.

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Plaintiffs’ Amendment to Class Action Complaint Following Removal under Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Defeated CAFA Jurisdiction Warranting Remand of Lawsuit to State Court Wisconsin Federal Court Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action in Wisconsin state court against various defendants seeking “damages resulting from a flash flood that inundated plaintiffs’ homes in the town of Bagley, Wisconsin in 2007.” Irish v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., 632 F.Supp.2d 871, 872 (W.D. Wis. 2009). Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court on grounds of diversity even though two of the defendants shared Wisconsin citizenship with the plaintiffs, arguing that the Wisconsin-resident defendants were fraudulently joined to defeat diversity, and also asserting removal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Id., at 872-83. “Plaintiffs’ moved to remand the case to state court, arguing that joinder was not fraudulent and that their suit was not subject to the Class Action Fairness Act.” Id., at 873. The district court determined that the joinder was not fraudulent but that CAFA removal jurisdiction existed, id. Plaintiffs sought and obtained leave to amend their class action complaint, “disavowing their class action allegations and seeking relief for only the named plaintiffs.” Id. The district court then remanded the class action to state court on the ground that it “no longer had subject matter jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.” Id. Defense attorneys moved the district court to reconsider its remand order, arguing that because CAFA jurisdiction existed at the time of removal, it could not be taken away by subsequent amendment “even if the case was no longer a class action.” Id. The district court granted reconsideration but again held that the case had to be remanded to state court.

As a preliminary procedural matter, the district court noted that defendants also filed a notice of appeal from the remand order with the Seventh Circuit. Irish, at 873. For reasons we do not discuss here, the district court concluded that it retained jurisdiction over the matter to reconsider its remand order. See id., at 873-74. Turning to the merits, the district court noted that the reconsideration motion was primarily directed at “[the] decision to remand the suit on the basis of a post-removal amendment of the complaint.” Id., at 874. The district court rejected the argument that “for the purpose of determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists in a case removed from state court under [CAFA], the court is bound by the allegations of the original complaint and may not consider any later amendments.” Id., at 875. The court reaffirmed its holding that “the dismissal of plaintiff’s class action claims eliminated the ground for the court’s grant of diversity jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.” Id., at 876.

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Class Action Failed to Allege Violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) based on Merchant’s Refusal to Redeem Gift Card for Cash because California Law gives Merchant Option Whether to Redeem (So Long as Gift Card Value Less than $10) California Federal Court Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action in California state court against McDonald’s alleging violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and unjust enrichment. Marilao v. McDonald’s CORP., 632 F.Supp.2d 1008, 1009-10 (S.D. Cal. 2009). According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, plaintiff sought “to redeem a gift card he received for cash instead of dining at McDonald’s, but was told…that he could not receive cash for his gift card.” Id., at 1010. The class action complaint further alleged that “McDonald’s gift cards provide…‘[t]he value on this card may not be redeemed for cash … unless required by law.’” Id. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), id., at 1009-10. McDonald’s then moved to dismiss the class action for failure to state a claim, id., at 1010. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the class action with leave to amend.

With respect to the class action’s UCL claim, plaintiff alleged that McDonald’s conduct violated California Civil Code § 1749.5(b)(1), which provides that “[a]ny gift certificate sold after January 1, 1997, is redeemable in cash for its cash value, or subject to replacement with a new gift certificate at no cost to the purchaser or holder.” Marilao, at 1011. However, California Civil Code § 1448 provides, “If an obligation requires the performance of one of two acts, in the alternative, the party required to perform has the right of selection, unless it is otherwise provided by the terms of the obligation.” In this case, then, the district court reasoned, McDonald’s had the option of “either redeeming a gift card in cash for its cash value or by replacing a gift card with a new card at no cost to the purchaser or holder.” Marilao, at 1011. The statute relied upon by plaintiff does not compel a contrary finding, so McDonald’s did not violate § 1749.5(b)(1) by refusing to redeem plaintiff’s gift card for cash. Id., at 1011-12. The court stressed that the class action did not implicate § 1749.5(b)(2), added in 2007, which requires merchants to redeem gift certificates with a cash value of less than $10, id., at 1012. The federal court also agreed with defense attorneys that plaintiff lacked standing to assert the class action’s UCL claim because he had not suffered injury in fact, or lost money or property, as a result of the allegedly unfair act. Id., at 1012. The court explained at page 1013, “Plaintiff did not expend money on his gift card, as he alleges that he received it as a gift…. Plaintiff does not allege that he lost money or property, as his gift card still retains its value to redeem it for McDonald’s products. Plaintiff also does not sufficiently allege that he has been denied money to which he has a cognizable claim, as Plaintiff is not entitled to redeem his McDonald’s gift card for cash whenever presented to McDonald’s under § 1749.5(b)(1). Accordingly, the Court concludes that Plaintiff fails to sufficiently allege his standing to bring a claim under the UCL.”

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Class Action Alleging Failure to Online Hotel Room Reseller to Pay Proper Occupancy Taxes, Dismissed by District Court for Failure of County to Comply with Administrative Process for Assessing and Collecting Taxes, Remanded for District Court Consideration of Whether Class Action Certification is Appropriate Second Circuit Holds

Plaintiff County of Nassau filed a putative class action against Hotels.Com alleging failure to pay the proper hotel occupancy taxes. County of Nassau v. Hotels.Com, LP, 577 F.3d 89, 90-91 (2d Cir. 2009). According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, “defendants are online sellers and/or resellers of hotel rooms who negotiate discounted room rates with hotels and then resell the rooms at higher retail rates.” Id., at 91. The State of New York authorizes counties to impose a tax “upon persons occupying hotel or motel rooms in such county.” Id. (citation omitted). The class action alleged that defendant improperly calculated the tax owed to the County in that defendant calculated the taxes owed “based on the discounted price that it negotiated with the hotels and accordingly remitting too little to the County.” Id. The class action complaint sought to represent a “state-wide class of all New York cities, counties and other local governmental entities that have imposed hotel taxes since March 1, 1995.” Id. The County filed the class action in federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), id. Defense attorneys moved to dismiss the class action on the ground that the County failed to comply “with administrative processes for assessing and collecting taxes, thus exhausting its administrative remedies, prior to commencing its action to recover those taxes”; the district court granted the motion and dismissed the class action. Id., at 90-91. The Second Circuit reversed without addressing the administrative process issue, remanding the matter “for consideration of a different jurisdictional concern, which we raised nostra sponte at oral argument: whether the complaint meets the requirements for class certification under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23, without which both we and the District Court would lack jurisdiction over the suit as presently constituted.” Id., at 91.

The Second Circuit explained, Because the case presents no federal questions, the only statutory jurisdictional grant that might allow us to consider the case with its current parties is CAFA, which grants district courts original jurisdiction over class action suits on certain conditions, among them that ‘the number of members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate’ be no less than one hundred.” Id., at 91-92 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(5)(B)). The parties had stipulated that the requirements of CAFA had been met, but as parties cannot stipulate to federal court jurisdiction the Second Circuit, at oral argument, “asked nostra sponte whether they are in fact satisfied, as the District Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case if they were not.” Id., at 92. The County stated in a post-argument letter brief that there were more than 100 local government entities owed hotel taxes under the theory of the complaint, id. The Second Circuit noted that this would satisfy the numerosity requirement under CAFA, but that “the allegation raises the distinct possibility that questions common to the members of the class do not predominate over those affecting only individual members” because “[a]ssuming that each locality imposes its hotel tax as Nassau does, under its own tax law, the cause of action for each member of the plaintiff class might well arise under a law unique to that class member.” Id. Accordingly, the Circuit Court remanded the class action to the district court to “consider in the first instance” whether class certification is appropriate. Id., at 92-93.

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Class Action Improperly Removed to Federal Court under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act) because Declaration of Plaintiff’s Counsel in Unrelated Lawsuit Against Different Defendant was Insufficient to Establish $5 Million Amount in Controversy and, in Any Event, did not Constitute an “Other Paper” within Meaning of Removal Statute, Warranting Remand of Class Action and Award of Attorney Fees and Costs for Frivolous Removal Washington Federal Court Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action in Washington state court against Motricity alleging violations of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that defendant “facilitated placing unauthorized charges for mobile content on customers’ bills.” Rynearson v. Motricity, Inc., 626 F.Supp.2d 1093, 1095 (W.D. Wash. 2009). Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act); plaintiff moved to remand the class action to state court (Rynearson I). Id., at 1094-95. Defense attorneys argued that “the estimate of the cost of injunctive relief was sufficient to establish the amount in controversy requisite for jurisdiction,” and at oral argument added that “removal would also be appropriate based on the damages sought by Plaintiff because of a declaration filed by Plaintiff’s counsel in a separate case,” id., at 1095. The district court remanded the class action to state court, id. Defense attorneys then removed the class action to federal court again (Rynearson II), this time arguing that while it had removed the class action previously, it now sought “to remove this action based on new and previously unknown grounds.” Id.¸ at 1096. Specifically, the second removal was based on the declaration of plaintiff’s counsel (Edelson) in a different matter that, according to defense counsel, constituted an “other paper” for removal purposes. Id. Plaintiff’s lawyer moved the district court to reassign Rynearson II to the court that had handled Rynearson I, and sought an OSC re contempt and sanctions, in addition to remand. Id. The district court denied the OSC, but remanded the class action and awarded plaintiff fees and costs. Id., at 1094-95.

In order to establish the $5 million threshold of removal jurisdiction under CAFA, defense attorneys argued that the declaration plaintiff’s counsel in an unrelated case showed that the amount in controversy had been met. Rynearson, at 1096. In explaining why that declaration was “new and previously unknown” when it had been relied on in Rynearson I, defense counsel claimed that this was true because Motricity had been unaware of the declaration at the time it had filed its first notice of removal. Id., at 1096-97. The district court was unimpressed. First, the Court held that the “other paper” may not be a pleading filed in an unrelated case “where the litigants are entirely different.” Id., at 1097. Accordingly, it had no bearing on Rynearson II. Id., at 1098. Second, while it was admittedly “perplexed by Motricity’s description of the Edelson declaration as ‘new and previously unknown,’” it found that defendant’s conduct did not rise to the level of civil contempt. Id. However, the federal court did find that defendant’s conduct warranted an award of attorney fees and costs, as there was no legal authority supporting defendant’s broad use of the phrase “other paper” to include documents filed in other actions. Id., at 1098-99. In the district court’s view, “Defendant’s argument in support of removal was frivolous and unsupported by caselaw or a plain reading of the removal statute.” Id., at 1099. Accordingly, the federal court again remanded the class action to state court, and awarded plaintiff attorney fees and costs. Id.

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Class Action Filed in State Court Against Defendant and Co-Defendant Debtor in Bankruptcy Removable to Federal Court under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act) because Co-Defendant Sued in Violation of Automatic Stay and because Co-Defendant’s Bankruptcy does not Preclude Defendant from Removing Class Action to Federal Court Third Circuit Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against JEVIC Transportation and its parent company, Sun Capital Partners, alleging labor law violations; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that defendants violated New Jersey’s WARN Act which, “[l]ike its federal counterpart, …requires advance notice of a plant closing under certain circumstances.” Brown v. JEVIC, 575 F.3d 322, 325 (3d Cir. 2009). JEVIC had filed for bankruptcy protection, and the class action was filed as an adversary proceeding in the United States Bankruptcy Court, id. One week later, and despite the automatic stay afforded by the bankruptcy proceeding, plaintiffs filed a class action in New Jersey state court against JEVIC and Sun Capital Partners. Id. Defense attorneys for JEVIC removed the state court class action to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA); the district court remanded the class action sua sponte on the grounds that the automatic stay precluded the debtor’s petition for removal. Id. Defense attorneys for Sun Capital then removed the state court class action to federal court under CAFA; the district court again remanded the class action, ruling that “[w]hen an action is initiated after the filing of a Chapter 11 petition, in violation of the accompanying stay, removal is not available.” Id., at 325-26. The Third Circuit granted Sun Capital’s petition for leave to appeal the remand order, id., at 326. The Circuit Court explained at page 325, “In this appeal implicating the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, we consider whether a defendant is precluded from removing a class action to federal court because a co-defendant is in bankruptcy. We hold that it is not.”

The Third Circuit began its analysis by noting that Sun Capital bore the “heavy burden” of establishing federal court jurisdiction. Brown, at 326 (citation omitted). Central to the Circuit Court’s analysis was the fact that Sun Capital was not in bankruptcy, so the district court’s reliance “on cases dealing with debtor defendants who attempted to remove actions” were inapplicable. Id. Also central to its analysis was the fact that the state court class action against JEVIC was improper because it was filed in knowing violation of the automatic stay, so plaintiffs had “improperly joined JEVIC in the [state court class action], [and] that joinder cannot prevent Sun from removing the action.” Id. In essence, plaintiffs fraudulently joined JEVIC in the state court class action. Id., at 326-27. The Third Circuit summarized its holding at page 327: “In sum, because [plaintiffs] had no reasonable basis to believe that JEVIC was amenable to suit, we hold that JEVIC was a fraudulently joined party and its status as a Defendant could not be used to defeat otherwise proper federal jurisdiction.” (The Third Circuit also held that the district court erred in remanding the class action to state court because JEVIC had never been served with legal process and therefore was not properly before the district court. See id., at 327. We do not here analyze that aspect of the Circuit Court’s opinion.) Accordingly, the Circuit Court reversed the district court order remanding the class action to state court, id., at 329.

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Class Action Properly Removed to Federal Court under Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) because Defendants Adequately Established $5 Million Amount in Controversy and because Plaintiffs Failed to Establish that Local Controversy Exception or Home-State Controversy Exception Applied Massachusetts Federal Court Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action in Massachusetts state court against GMAC Mortgage and various other defendants challenging defendant’s mortgage foreclosure practices; specifically, the class action complaint alleges GMAC violated Massachusetts state law in connection with its foreclosure proceedings because “the foreclosed mortgages had not been validly assigned to the foreclosing banks at the time the foreclosure actions were undertaken.” Manson v. GMAC Mortgage, LLC, 602 F.Supp.2d 289, 291-92 (D. Mass. 2009). Plaintiffs’ class action seeks to represent some 1000 people, all residents of Massachusetts residents, “whose primary residence was foreclosed by a power of sale…by a defendant that did not contemporaneously possess a written assignment of the underlying mortgage at the time the Notice of Sale was served” or “who face a pending foreclosure initiated by a defendant that did not have a written assignment of the underlying mortgage when the Notice of Sale was served and/or when a Right to Cure notice was sent.” Id., at 292. According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, “the defendant banks and law firms knew that the foreclosures violated: (i) the Statute of Frauds…; (ii) the statutory notice and sale requirements…; and (iii) the common-law duty of good faith and diligence.” Id. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act), id. Plaintiffs moved to remand the class action to state court on the grounds that the $5 million amount-in-controversy had not been shown and that CAFA’s “local controversy” or “home-state controversy” exceptions required that the district court “decline jurisdiction.” Id. The district court denied plaintiffs motion, concluding that the class action had been properly removed.

The federal court began by noting that CAFA, inter alia, creates federal jurisdiction over class actions with minimal diversity where the combined amount in controversy exceeds $5 million and the class action involves 100 members or more. GMAC, at 293. Plaintiffs conceded that minimal diversity was present and that the putative class contained more than 100 members, but insisted that it was not “reasonably probable” that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million at the time of removal. Id. (In this regard, the district court observed that the time of removal was the relevant inquiry because “[e]vents subsequent to removal that reduce the amount in controversy do not divest a federal court of CAFA jurisdiction.” Id., at 293 n.5 (citing Coventry Sewage Assocs. v. Dworkin Realty Co., 71 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 1995)).) Under plaintiffs’ analysis, the class action seeks primarily injunctive and declaratory relief, and each class members’ monetary damage is approximately $1200; thus, the amount in controversy is only $1.2 million. GMAC, at 293. Defense attorneys countered that a total of 3,934 loans were “referred for foreclosure” during the putative class period, with 1,048 of these loans proceeding to foreclosure and 48 foreclosed properties being sold to third parties for more than $15 million. Id., at 293-94. GMAC argued that this fact went directly to “plaintiffs’ contingent claim that defendants may be liable for the collective replacement value of the homes that were foreclosed.” Id., at 294 n.8. In the alternative, defense attorneys argued that “the actual amount assessed foreclosed borrowers in costs and fees was approximately $8,000 per transaction,” not the $1200 figure provided by plaintiffs, which would make the amount in controversy approximately $8 million. Id., at 294. The district court found defendant’s evidence sufficient to meet the amount in controversy test, id.

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Class Action Improperly Removed to Federal Court (Twice) because Defendant Failed to Establish $5 Million Amount in Controversy Required by Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) and Basis for Defendant’s Removal of Class Action Warrants Sanctions Sua Sponte California Federal Court Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action in California state court against Motricity alleging violations of every conceivable statute, including the kitchen sink (see NOTE), arising from Motricity’s alleged act of billing for unwanted mobile content. Walker v. Motricity Inc., 627 F.Supp.2d 1137, 1139-40 (N.D. Cal. 2009). According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, Motricity “allegedly operates mobile transaction networks to help companies develop, deliver and bill for ‘mobile content’ services to compatible mobile devices in California and the nation,” including such services as “customized ring tones, premium text messages, and sports score reports,” and is purportedly “able to reach and bill millions of wireless subscribers nationwide and has registered thousands of transactions and processed thousands of dollars in California over recent years.” Id., at 1139. Plaintiff alleges that Motricity billed her for “unwanted mobile content services on her cellular telephone bill in the form of premium text messages” that she did not authorize, leading to the filing of her class action. Id., at 1139-40. But plaintiff’s act of excessive pleading was more than matched by defendant’s act in response. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), but the district court granted plaintiff’s motion to remand the class action on the ground that Motricity failed to show the requisite $5 million amount in controversy. Id., at 1139, 1140. Defense attorneys again removed the class action to federal court under CAFA “just fifteen days later,” based on a declaration filed by plaintiff’s counsel in an unrelated action which (Motricity alleged) set forth a ratio for revenue that would (if applied in this case) meet the $5 million threshold for removing class actions under CAFA. Id., at 1140. Plaintiff again moved to remand it to state court. Id. The district court granted plaintiff’s motion, and awarded sanctions for frivolous removal of the class action.

After summarizing CAFA and noting the removing party’s burden of demonstrating that removal jurisdiction exists, see Walker , at 1140-41, the federal court observed that Ninth Circuit authority establishes “different burdens of proof for establishing removal jurisdiction in the CAFA context, depending on what has been pled in the complaint,” id., at 1141. If the class action complaint specifically alleges the amount of damages at issue, then it must appear to a “legal certainty” that the amount prayed for is incorrect; in other words, “If the complaint alleges specific damages in excess of the jurisdictional minimum, then the amount in controversy is presumptively satisfied unless it appears to a ‘legal certainty’ that the claim is actually for less than the jurisdictional minimum, whereas if the specific damages are less than the statutory minimum, it must be shown to a legal certainty that the amount in controversy exceeds that minimum for removal.” Id., at 1141 (citation omitted). But if the complaint does not specify the amount in controversy, then “then the court must look beyond the facts of the complaint and apply the preponderance of the evidence standard.” Id. (citations omitted). In its initial order granting plaintiff’s motion to remand the class action to state court, the district court noted that the class action complaint is silent as to the amount in controversy so Motricity was required to show that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million. Id., at 1141-42. Because it failed to meet that burden, the court remanded the class action to state court. Id.

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District Court Erred in Dismissing Class Action because Class Action’s State Law Claims Alleging Snapple’s Use of Term “All Natural” was Deceptive were not Impliedly Preempted by Federal Nutrition Labeling and Education Act Third Circuit Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action in New Jersey state court against Snapple Beverage Corporation alleging inter alia violations of the state’s Consumer Fraud Act; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that plaintiff purchased a Snapple beverage advertised as “All Natural” when in truth the beverage “contained high fructose corn syrup (‘HFCS’), an ingredient manufactured from processed cornstarch.” Holk v. Snapple Beverage Corp., 575 F.3d 329 (3rd Cir. 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1, 5-6]. According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, “the FDA has acknowledged[] ‘[t]he word “natural” is often used to convey that a food is composed only of substances that are not manmade and is, therefore, somehow more wholesome.’” Id., at 5. The class action therefore alleged that use of the phrase “All Natural” was deceptive because the beverages contain HFCS. Id., at 6, 7. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), id., at 7. Eventually, defense attorneys moved to dismiss the class action’s claims on the grounds that they were preempted by federal law, id. Ultimately, the only issue before the district court was “the claim that Snapple products containing HFCS were deceptively labeled ‘All Natural.’” Id. The district court agreed that plaintiff’s claims were preempted and dismissed the class action, id., at 7-8. The district court rejected the express preemption argument, but concluded that plaintiff’s claims were “impliedly preempted by the detailed and extensive regulatory scheme established by the [FDCA] and the FDA’s implementing regulations.” Id., at 8. The Third Circuit reversed.

The Third Circuit noted that Congress has regulated food and beverage labeling for more than 100 years.” Holk, at 3. The statute implicated by this class action is the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), enacted in 1990. Id., at 5. The Circuit Court also noted that there is “a presumption against preemption.” Id., at 11 (citation omitted). Additionally, health and safety issues, including the labeling and branding of food and beverage, has “traditionally fallen within the province of state regulation.” Id. (citation omitted). The federal government became involved in this field only 100 years ago, id., at 11-12. And finally, the Third Circuit held that Snapple’s arguments in the district court waived the express preemption ground as a basis for affirming the judgment on appeal, id., at 12-15, and that “field preemption” did not apply, id., at 15-22. So the Court turned to the issue of implied preemption.

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