Keywords: class action fairness act, removal, CAFA
Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in one case of interest to the business community:
- Class Action Fairness Act—Removal
Class Action Fairness Act—Removal
A threshold question in many class actions filed in state court is whether the defendant may remove the action to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA"). That law authorizes removal of certain class and mass actions when, among other things, the amount "in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5,000,000, exclusive of interest and costs." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2). Plaintiffs in removed class actions sometimes seek to defeat federal court jurisdiction under CAFA—and thereby force a remand to state court—by stipulating that the maximum recovery they seek on behalf of the putative class is less than CAFA's $5 million jurisdictional threshold.
Today the Supreme Court has granted review in Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles, No. 11-1450, to determine whether such a stipulation is binding and thus sufficient to destroy CAFA jurisdiction when the defendant has presented evidence that, absent the stipulation, the amount in controversy would exceed $5 million.
The plaintiff in Knowles had filed a putative class action in Arkansas state court against his insurer, alleging that the company breached certain homeowner insurance policies by failing fully to reimburse customers reporting damages. Attached to the complaint was a stipulation, signed by the plaintiff, stating that "I do not now, and will not at any time during this case, whether it be removed, remanded, or otherwise ... seek damages for the class ... in excess of $5,000,000 in the aggregate (inclusive of costs and attorneys' fees)." The insurance company removed the action under CAFA, and submitted evidence showing that the amount in controversy (absent the stipulation) would exceed $5 million. But the plaintiff successfully moved to remand the case back to state court, relying on the stipulation to challenge the existence of federal jurisdiction under CAFA.
The insurance company unsuccessfully petitioned the Eighth Circuit for review of the remand order. The Supreme Court then granted a writ of certiorari. In its petition, the insurance company contends that allowing a plaintiff to defeat CAFA jurisdiction by prospectively limiting the putative class's maximum recovery contravenes CAFA and the due-process principle that absent members of a putative class are not bound until the class is certified, as reiterated last Term in Smith v. Bayer, 131 S. Ct. 2368 (2011).
Knowles is of enormous significant to businesses that may be targeted by class actions. If the decision below is affirmed, forum-shopping plaintiffs can file class actions in state courts with lax class-certification standards, and deprive defendants of the protections of federal court that CAFA was intended to secure.
Originally published August 31, 2012
Please visit us at appellate.net
Visit us at mayerbrown.com
Mayer Brown is a global legal services provider comprising legal practices that are separate entities (the "Mayer Brown Practices"). The Mayer Brown Practices are: Mayer Brown LLP and Mayer Brown Europe – Brussels LLP, both limited liability partnerships established in Illinois USA; Mayer Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership incorporated in England and Wales (authorized and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and registered in England and Wales number OC 303359); Mayer Brown, a SELAS established in France; Mayer Brown JSM, a Hong Kong partnership and its associated entities in Asia; and Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a Brazilian law partnership with which Mayer Brown is associated. "Mayer Brown" and the Mayer Brown logo are the trademarks of the Mayer Brown Practices in their respective jurisdictions.
© Copyright 2012. The Mayer Brown Practices. All rights reserved.
This Mayer Brown article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein.