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Class Action Defense Cases–Greenwich v. Countrywide: New York Federal Court Remands Class Action To State Court Holding Class Action Complaint Fell Within Exception To CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act) Removal

Aug 25, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Class Action Complaint Satisfied Amount in Controversy and Minimal Diversity Requirements for Removal under Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), but Remand Warranted because Plaintiffs Met Burden of Establishing Exception to Removal Jurisdiction in that Class Action Related Solely to Securities New York Federal Court Holds

Plaintiffs, the holders of mortgage-backed securities certificates issued by various trusts, filed a putative class action in New York state court against various Countrywide entities seeking declaratory relief; specifically, the class action complaint alleged inter alia that Countrywide violated the federal Truth-in-Lending Act (TILA). Greenwich Fin. Servs. Distressed Mtg. Fund 3, LLC v. Countrywide Fin. Corp., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (S.D.N.Y. August 18, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1-2]. According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, the Attorneys General for 7 states sued Countrywide in 2008 alleging violations of predatory lending laws; Countrywide settled those lawsuits with “a multistate settlement, requiring it to modify the terms of numerous mortgage loans that it currently services – including at least some of the loans it services on behalf of plaintiffs.” Id., at 2-3. Plaintiffs argued that the loan modifications caused them to suffer monetary damage, and that Countrywide was required to repurchase the loans that it modified “at a price equal to the unpaid principal and accrued interest thereon” in order to make plaintiffs whole. Id., at 2-3. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court; Countrywide argued that removal was proper under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), and further argued that the class action was removable “because plaintiffs’ claims raise substantial, disputed federal questions under the Truth-in-Lending Act [(TILA)],” id., at 1. Plaintiffs moved to remand the class action to state court. Id. The district court held that neither CAFA nor TILA provided subject-matter jurisdiction over the dispute and remanded the class action as requested.

The district court first examined whether removal jurisdiction existed under CAFA, which authorizes removal of class actions where the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million and where minimal diversity exists. Greenwich, at 4. (A more detailed discussion of CAFA may be found HERE.) Plaintiffs conceded that the requirements for removal had been met, but countered that their class action fell within an exception to removal – viz., a class action that “solely involves a claim…that relates to the rights, duties (including fiduciary duties), and obligations relating to or created by or pursuant to any security.” Id. (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(9)©). The burden of establishing that the exception applied rests with plaintiffs, id. Relying on the Second Circuit decision in Estate of Barbara Pew v. Cardarelli, 527 F.3d 25 (2d Cir. 2008), the district court held that the class action fell squarely within the scope of the exception to CAFA removal jurisdiction, see Greenwich, at 4-8, and rejected Countrywide’s arguments to the contrary, see id., at 8-11.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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CAFA Class Action Defense Cases–Thomas v. Bank of America: Eleventh Circuit Affirms Remand Of Class Action To State Court Holding Evidence Insufficient Of Amount In Controversy Under Class Action Fairness Act

Jun 23, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Class Action Improperly Removed to Federal Court under Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) because Defendant Failed to Adequately Establish that the $5 Million Amount in Controversy Requirement Eleventh Circuit Holds Plaintiff filed a class action in Georgia state court against Bank of America and its wholly-owned subsidiary FIA Card Services (collectively “BofA”) alleging insurance fraud, unfair and deceptive acts, bad faith, and violations of the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO); the class action complaint was premised on the allegation that BofA “[sold] a bundled insurance product, known as Credit Protection Plus, to ineligible individuals.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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CAFA Class Action Defense Cases–Marshall v. H & R Block: Seventh Circuit Reverses Remand Of Class Action To State Court Holding Potential Increase In Liability Rendered Class Action Removable Under CAFA

Jun 10, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

District Court Erred in Remanding Class Action to State Court because Decertification Order and Dismissal of Co-Defendants Substantially Increased Remaining Defendant’s Liability such that Amended Class Action Complaint did not “Relate Back” to Original Class Action Complaint, Rendering Class Action Removable under Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) Seventh Circuit Holds Plaintiff filed a putative class action in Illinois state court against various H & R Block companies alleging violations of the state’s Consumer Fraud Act; the class action complaint alleged that defendants “had used deceptive practices to sell ‘Peace of Mind’ insurance against mistakes by H & R Block that increased customers’ tax liabilities.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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CAFA Class Action Defense Cases–Rynearson v. Motricity: Washington Federal Court Remands Class Action Complaint To State Court Holding Defense Failed To Establish Amount In Controversy Under CAFA

Jun 4, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Motion to Remand Class Action to State Court Granted because $5 Million Amount in Controversy Required by Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) not Established because “Cost” of Complying with Possible Injunction not Sufficient to Support Removal Jurisdiction Washington Federal Court Holds Plaintiff, a citizen of Florida, filed a class action in Washington state court against Motricity, a Delaware corporation with its principle place of business in Washington; the class action complaint alleged that Motricity, which “represents providers of mobile content in dealing with wireless carriers whose networks and billing services the providers use” and “receives a fee per content transaction billed to cellular telephone users,” violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act by “placing unauthorized charges for mobile content on customers’ bills.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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CAFA Class Action Defense Cases–In re Hannaford Bros.: First Circuit Affirms Remand Of Class Action Holding Home State Exception To CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act) Jurisdiction Applies

May 12, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Class Action on Behalf of Florida Citizens Against Florida Corporation, Removed to Federal Court under Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), Properly Remanded to State Court because Home State Exception to CAFA Jurisdiction Applies First Circuit Holds

Plaintiff filed a class action in Florida state court against Kash N’ Karry Food Stores (a chain of grocery stores in Florida) alleging “alleging that Kash N’ Karry had failed to adopt adequate security measures to protect its customers’ credit card information.” In re Hannaford Bros. Co. Customer Data Security Breach Litig., 564 F.3d 75 (1st Cir. 2009) [Slip Opn., at 3]. According to the allegations underlying the class action, a computer hacker stole from defendant the credit and debit card information of approximately 1.6 million Kash N’ Karry customers, and limited the class action’s definition to Florida residents, id., at 3-4. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), and the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation coordinated plaintiff’s class action for pretrial purposes with two dozen other class actions in the District of Maine. Id., at 4. The other 24 class actions had been filed against entities that were related to Kash N’ Karry; specifically, its sister corporation Hannaford Brothers, and their common parent company, Delhaize America. Id. Plaintiff moved to remand his class action to state court under the home state exception to CAFA jurisdiction; the district court granted plaintiff’s motion and the First Circuit gave defendant leave to appeal. Id. The Circuit Court stated that this case “presents an issue of first impression for this circuit regarding the application of the home state exception to federal jurisdiction under [CAFA].” Id., at 2. Defense attorneys argued that the class action complaint had been drafted to defeat CAFA jurisdiction “in violation of congressional intent”; plaintiff responded that the home state exception to CAFA jurisdiction applied and, accordingly, that the district court order remanding the class action to state court was correct. Id. The Circuit Court affirmed the remand of the class action to state court, holding that the class action complaint fell squarely within the home state exception to CAFA jurisdiction.

CAFA’s home state exception “requires a federal court to decline to exercise jurisdiction if at least two-thirds of the members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate and the primary defendants are citizens of the state where the action was originally filed.” In re Hannaford, at 2 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4)(B)). The First Circuit observed that plaintiff’s class action complaint limits the scope of the class to Florida citizens, and is brought against a single corporation, Kash N’ Karry, which also is a Florida citizen. Id. The district court remanded the class action to state court on the basis of the home state exception, and the Circuit Court affirmed, rejecting defense attorney claims that “the application of CAFA’s home state exception depends on a broader assessment of the claims brought by others who do not fall within the complaint’s class definition or of the claims available to the class against other possible defendants.” Id.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Multidistrict Litigation Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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Arbitration Class Action Defense Cases–Vaden v. Discover Bank: Supreme Court Reverses District Court Order Under Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) Compelling Arbitration Of Class Action Counterclaims On Individual Basis

Apr 2, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

FAA does not Enlarge Federal Court Jurisdiction but Simply Permits District Court to Entertain Petition to Compel Arbitration where Jurisdiction Exists but for Arbitration Clause, and while District Courts may “Look Through” Pleadings to Decide Petition under FAA Section 4, Counterclaims are not Removable if Complaint is not Subject to Federal Court Jurisdiction Supreme Court Holds

Discover Card filed a “garden-variety, state-law-based contract action” against a cardholder in Maryland state court to collect $10,610.74, plus interest and attorney fees; the cardholder agreement provided for arbitration of “any claim or dispute” between Discover and the cardholder, and included a class action waiver in that it prohibited “any claims as a representative or member of a class.” Vaden v. Discover Bank, 129 S.Ct. 1262, 1268-69 and n.2 (2009). The cardholder answered and filed a putative class action counterclaim that also asserted only state law claims, id., at 1268. According to the allegations underlying the class action counterclaim, “Discover’s demands for finance charges, interest, and late fees violated Maryland’s credit laws.” Id. Neither Discover nor the cardholder invoked the arbitration clause in the cardholder agreement. Id., at 1268-69. In response to the class action counterclaim, Discover petitioned the federal court for an order compelling arbitration under § 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), id., at 1269 (9 U.S.C. § 4). Though the class action claims were brought under state law, Discover argued that the counterclaims were governed by § 27(a) of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (FDIA), which “prescribes the interest rates state-chartered, federally insured banks like Discover can charge, ‘notwithstanding any State constitution or statute which is hereby preempted.’” Id. Discover’s argument was that the cardholder’s state law claims were preempted by the FDIA and, accordingly, the federal court had jurisdiction to rule on Discover’s petition under the FAA. Id. The district court granted Discover’s petition and ordered arbitration of the cardholder’s individual claims. Id. The cardholder appealed: the Fourth Circuit questioned whether the district court had federal question jurisdiction over Discover’s FAA petition; the Circuit Court remanded the case to the district court with instructions to “‘look through’ the § 4 petition to the substantive controversy between the parties” and to make “an express determination whether that controversy presented ‘a properly invoked federal question.’” Id. (citations omitted). On remand, the cardholder conceded that his state law claims were completely preempted by the FDIA because Discover was a federally insured bank; based on this concession, the district court held it had federal-question jurisdiction and again granted the petition compelling arbitration. Id. This time, the Fourth Circuit affirmed. Id. The Supreme Court reversed.

Under Section 4 of the FAA, a district court may consider a petition to compel arbitration “if the court would have jurisdiction, ‘save for [the arbitration] agreement,’ over ‘a suit arising out of the controversy between the parties.’” Vaden, at 1267-68. The petition for certiorari presented the Supreme Court with two questions “concerning a district court’s subject-matter jurisdiction over a § 4 petition”: First, “Should a district court, if asked to compel arbitration pursuant to § 4, ‘look through’ the petition and grant the requested relief if the court would have federal-question jurisdiction over the underlying controversy?” And second, “[I]f the answer to that question is yes, may a district court exercise jurisdiction over a § 4 petition when the petitioner’s complaint rests on state law but an actual or potential counterclaim rests on federal law?” Id., at 1268. The High Court summarized its holding at page 1268 as follows, “A federal court may ‘look through’ a § 4 petition and order arbitration if, ‘save for [the arbitration] agreement,’ the court would have jurisdiction over ‘the [substantive] controversy between the parties.’” But the Supreme Court reversed the Fourth Circuit’s decision because it had “misidentified the dimensions of ‘the controversy between the parties’ by ignoring that the lawsuit originated with “Discover’s claim for the balance due on Vaden’s account” – “Given that entirely state-based plea and the established rule that federal-court jurisdiction cannot be invoked on the basis of a defense or counterclaim, the whole ‘controversy between the parties’ does not qualify for federal-court adjudication.” Id. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed.

Arbitration Class Action Court Decisions Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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SLUSA Class Action Defense Cases–Kurz v. Fidelity Management: Seventh Circuit Affirms Removal Of Class Action And Subsequent Defense Judgment In Class Action Holding Class Action Complaint Fell Within SLUSA

Mar 16, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Class Action Premised on Violations of “Best Execution” Duty Fell within Scope of SLUSA (Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998) so Properly Removed and then Properly Dismissed because Time-Barred and no Proof of Injury Seventh Circuit Holds Plaintiffs, former investors in portfolio managed by Fidelity Management & Research and FMR Co. (collectively “Fidelity”), filed a class action in state court against Fidelity alleging violations of state law and breach of contract based on the allegation that “some of [Fidelity’s] employees placed trades through Jeffries & Co.

Class Action Court Decisions PSLRA/SLUSA Class Actions Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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CAFA Class Action Defense Cases–Katz v. Gerardi: Seventh Circuit Reverses Order Remanding Class Action To State Court Holding Class Action Fairness Act May Trump Securities Act Of 1933

Mar 5, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

District Court Erred in Remanding Securities Class Action to State Court because Evidentiary Hearing Required to Determine Whether Section 22(a) of Securities Act Precluded Removal of Class Action to Federal Court Pursuant to CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act) Complaint Seventh Circuit Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action in state court against various defendants purportedly on behalf of “a class of persons who contributed real property (or interests in real property) to the Archstone real estate investment trust, in exchange for interests called ‘A-1 Units’”; the class action complaint asserted that defendants violated federal securities laws. Katz v. Gerardi, 552 F.3d 558, 559 (7th Cir. 2009). According to the allegations underlying the class action, “In 2007 Archstone merged into Tishman-Lehman Partnership. Holders of A-1 Units were offered a choice of cash or Series O Preferred Units in the entity formed by the merger. [Plaintiff] contends that the merger violated the terms of the A-1 Units, because neither cash nor the Series O Preferred Units offered investors the same tax benefits as A-1 Units.” Id. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), id. The district court remanded the class action to state court on the grounds that the Securities Act of 1933 prohibited removal, id., at 560. The Seventh Circuit granted defendants’ application for permission to appeal and reversed the district court’s remand order.

The Circuit Court began its analysis by observing, “One might suppose that a statute enacted in 2005 supersedes a statute enacted in 1933, but the district court held that § 22(a) [of the Securities Act of 1933] controls because it is ‘more specific’ than the 2005 Act – for § 22(a) deals only with securities litigation, while the 2005 Act covers class actions in many substantive fields.” Katz, at 560. The Seventh Circuit also noted that “[o]nly purchasers of securities may pursue actions under the 1933 Act,” id. (citation omitted). But the district court found it sufficient that the class action complaint “invokes the Securities Act of 1933,” which, in the district court’s view, was alone sufficient to preclude removal.” Id. The Seventh Circuit disagreed: “It is hard to distinguish between a claim artfully designed to defeat federal jurisdiction and one that is properly pleaded but unsuccessful on the merits, but it cannot be right to say that a pleader’s choice of language always defeats removal.” Id. Based on the Circuit Court’s analysis, “Section 22(a) and the 2005 Act are incompatible; one or the other must yield,” id., at 561, and further that § 22(a) did not “insulate” the class action’s alleged claims under the Securities Act from removal under CAFA. See id., at 561-63.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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CAFA Class Action Defense Cases–McLoughlin v. People’s United: Connecticut Federal Court Denies Motion To Remand Class Action To State Court Holding Removal Jurisdiction Exists Under Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA)

Feb 25, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

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.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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CAFA Class Action Defense Cases–Ava Acupuncture v. State Farm: New York Federal Court Denies Motion To Remand Class Action To State Court Holding “Reasonably Probable” $5,000,000 Was At Stake And Plaintiffs Failed To Establish Local Controversy Exception

Feb 12, 2009 | By: Michael J. Hassen

Class Action Properly Removed to Federal Court under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act) because State Farm Declaration Established “Reasonable Probability” that Amount in Controversy Exceeded $5 Million and Plaintiffs Failed to Establish Relief Sought Against “Significant” Local Defendant New York Federal Court Holds

Plaintiffs, medical providers who had “been assigned No-Fault medical reimbursement claims by eligible injured persons (‘EIPs’),” filed a class action in New York state court against various defendants, including State Farm, alleging “that defendant insurers have fraudulently failed to pay statutorily mandated medical benefits under New York’s No-Fault Insurance Law” and that, together with “their legal counsel and special investigation units (‘SIUs’),” violated various New York state laws. Ava Acupuncture P.C. v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 2008 WL 5170186, *1 (S.D.N.Y. December 9, 2008). According to the allegations underlying the class action, the defendants engaged in “harassing, abusive verification and litigation tactics” and used “preset numeric targets to limit claim payouts,” and allegedly bribed individuals at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. Id. Defense attorneys for State Farm and two other defendants removed the class action to federal court, asserting removal jurisdiction existed under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA), id. In response, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their class action claims against the two other removing defendants, leaving State Farm as “the only remaining removing defendant,” and then filed a motion to remand the class action back to state court. Id. The district court denied the motion.

Plaintiffs argued that the class action should be remanded to state court for two reasons: (1) because State Farm failed to establish that the amount in controversy exceeded $5,000,000, and (2) because the class action falls within the scope of CAFA’s “local controversy” exception. Ava Acupuncture, at *1. After summarizing New York’s no-fault insurance law and federal subject matter jurisdiction requirements of CAFA, see id., at *2, as well as the general rules for calculating the amount in controversy and summarizing the “local controversy” exception to CAFA removal jurisdiction and the burden of the party opposing removal to establish the applicability of exceptions to CAFA removal, see id., at *3, the district court turned to whether the removing parties had met their burden of establishing federal court jurisdiction within a “reasonable probability,” id., at *2. While the class action complaint outlined damages “in only the most general terms, indicating that the exact number of class members will be ascertained through discovery and review of defendants’ records.,” and while the class action failed to “plac[e] a value on the object of the litigation,” the complaint did allege that “thousands” of individuals would be covered by the class action and attacked every denial of insurance coverage by State Farm over a 6-year period. Id., at *4. To meet its burden, State Farm submitted as evidence a declaration stating that “over the last six years State Farm has denied $40,265,558 worth of claims arising out of investigations conducted by its SIU investigators” and that “the amount of unpaid denied claims since 2003 far exceeds $5,000,000.” Id. The district court rejected plaintiffs’ objections to this declaration and concluded that the $5 million threshold was “easily” met. Id., at *4-*5. The federal court therefore turned to the local controversy exception.

Class Action Court Decisions Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) Removal & Remand Uncategorized

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