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CAFA Law Blog Information, cases and insights regarding the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005

Amount In Controversy Is Determined By Four Corners Of The Pleadings And There Is No Duty To Make Further Inquiry.

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Adams v. Toys ‘R’ Us, 2015 WL 395214 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 29, 2015).

A district court in California denied remand finding that the allegations in the complaint were sufficient to assume an amount-in-controversy in excess of the jurisdictional minimum under CAFA.

Plaintiff filed this class action on behalf of herself and at least 2000 purported class members. In her complaint, plaintiff alleged that the amount-in-controversy of her individual claim was less than $30,000, in addition to an unspecified amount of attorneys’ fees.

The defendant removed the action to the federal court under CAFA alleging that the class contained more than 100 people, there was minimal diversity, and that the amount-in-controversy exceeded $5 million.  In support, the defendant noted that plaintiff’s individual claim of less than $30,000, aggregated over 2000 class members, amounted to a claim of approximately $59,999,980.

Plaintiff argued that she had not alleged a specific amount-in-controversy because the defendant alone had access to the information necessary to make such calculation. As defendant had not presented such calculation in its notice of removal, defendant had not met its burden of establishing the amount in controversy.

In response, the defendant maintained that it had no duty to investigate facts outside of the four corners of the pleadings. The court sided with the defendant, noting that the plaintiff alleged that the amount-in-controversy for her individual claim was less than $30,000, but greater than the unlimited jurisdictional amount of $25,000 under California Code of Civil Procedure section 88.  Since plaintiff at no point alleged that the damages she sustained were atypical to the class, it was reasonable to aggregate and assume that the plaintiff had placed over $59,000,000 in controversy.

The court referred to the decision in Harris v. Bankers Life and Casualty Co., 425 F.3d 689 (9th Cir. 2005), in which the Ninth Circuit clarified that removability under 28 U.S.C. section 1446(b) is determined by an examination of the four corners of the applicable pleadings, not through subjective knowledge or a duty to make further inquiry.   

Under this authority, the district court concluded that the defendant was under no duty to investigate the facts or make calculations as suggested by the plaintiff. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s motion to remand was denied.