CAFA Class Action Defense Cases-Lott v. Pfizer: Seventh Circuit Holds Defense Basis For Erroneous Removal Of Class Action Pursuant To CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act of 2005) Was Objectively Reasonable So Sanction Award Was Improper
District Court Erred in Awarding Attorney Fees Against Defendant for Removing Class Action Under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act of 2005) Because even though Basis for Removal was Flawed - that Class Action was “Commenced” when Removed rather than when Filed - Defense had Objectively Reasonable Grounds for its Interpretation of the Statute Seventh Circuit Holds
In an effort to avoid removal to federal court, plaintiffs filed a putative class action in Illinois state court on February 17, 2005: the class action alleged violations of Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act in that defendant Pfizer misrepresented the health risks of using Celebrex and Bextra, and charged more than fair market value for these drugs. Lott v. Pfizer, Inc., 492 F.3d 789, 790-91 (7th Cir. 2007). Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court on the basis of CAFA, id., at 790, arguing that the action “commenced” when defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court, id., at 791. The district court remanded the class action to state court on the ground that CAFA applied only to class actions filed after CAFA’s effective date, and awarded attorney fees and costs against Pfizer. Id. The defense appealed the award of fees and the Seventh Circuit reversed.
We do not here discuss the unsuccessful arguments made by the defense in support of removal, both under CAFA and under traditional diversity jurisdiction: suffice it to say that the district court remanded the class action to state court based on its conclusion that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and that the requirements for diversity jurisdiction had not been met - a decision affirmed by the Seventh Circuit in Pfizer, Inc. v. Lott, 417 F.3d 725, 727 (7th Cir.2005), which held that for purposes of CAFA jurisdiction a class action was “commenced” when it was “filed” not when it was “removed,” and that Pfizer had not established diversity jurisdiction. We address here the defense appeal from the award of attorney fees against Pfizer.