Class Action Properly Removed to Federal Court under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act of 2005) because Defendants Established by Preponderance of the Evidence that Class Action Placed more than $5 Million in Controversy Connecticut Federal Court Holds
Plaintiffs filed a class action in Connecticut state court against Bank of New York Mellon (“Mellon”) and People’s United Bank (“Bank”) alleging negligence, invasion of privacy, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA); the class action complaint asserted that Mellon lost electronic data belong to Bank customers. McLoughlin v. People’s United Bank, Inc., 586 F.Supp.2d 70, 71 (D.Conn. 2008). According to the allegations underlying the class action, the Bank entered into a contract with Mellon to store customer data and records electronically, and Mellon created backup tapes of this information which were later lost. Id. The class action “alleged damages [that] include ‘improperly charged account fees,’ ‘the costs of remedying the [data] breach through the purchase of identity theft protection and monitoring of accounts to ensure against identity theft,’ damages for ‘unnecessary and illegal intrusion into their privacy rights,’ and ‘mental and emotional distress’ as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees.” Id., at 71-72. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA); plaintiffs moved to remand the class action to state court. Id., at 72. Plaintiffs argued that the $5 million amount in controversy had not been met because the class may consist of only 450,000 people (whereas defendants asserted up to 10 million people may have been affected). Id. The district court refused to remand the class action to state court.
After summarizing removal jurisdiction under CAFA, the and defendants’ burden of establishing that removal jurisdiction exists, the district court observed that, because the class action complaint failed to specify the amount of damages sought, Mellon and the Bank were required to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. McLoughlin, at 72. The federal court observed that this was “the only point of dispute,” id., at 72, and the parties were entitled to introduce evidence to establish the amount in controversy, id., at 72-73. Defendants introduced the only evidence on this issue, which showed that 556,000 Bank customers and a total of 10 million people were affected. Id., at 73. Also, plaintiffs’ counsel had stated that he was seeking “seeking seven years of credit monitoring, credit insurance, and other damages for his clients.” Id. Defendants also introduced evidence that Experian charges $14.95 per month for credit monitoring services, id. Plaintiffs did not challenge these figures, and the district court explained that “at $14.95 a month, for seven years, the amount in controversy for each class member would be $1,255.80.” Id. The amount in controversy for 10 million class members, then, would be more than $12 billion, id. Accordingly, defendants had adequately established removal jurisdiction under CAFA, and the district court denied plaintiffs’ motion to remand the class action to state court. Id., at 74.