Schorsch v. Hewlett-Packard Company, 417 F. 3d 748, 2005 WL 1863412, No. 05- 8017 (7th Cir. Aug. 8, 2005)
Another in the continuing series of decisions declining to impose CAFA jurisdiction over a state court action filed pre-CAFA and removed to federal court after the effective date of CAFA.
Judge Easterbrook noted the trend toward removing such actions in the opening line of his opinion in Schorsch: “Ever since Congress enacted the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 [citation omitted] defendants have been trying to remove suits that were pending in state court on February 18, 2005, although the statute applies only to suits `commenced’ after that date.” The Seventh Circuit rejected similar removal attempts in Knudsen v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., No. 05-8010 (7th Cir. June 7, 2005) and in Pfizer, Inc. v. Lott, No. 05-8013 (7th Cir. August 4, 2005).
Although the rule may seem ironclad, Judge Easterbrook did note the variance among states regarding when a suit is deemed to have been filed. While a federal suit is “commenced” when filed, Judge Easterbrook explained that states differ considerably regarding the conditions that must be met for an action to “commence” there.
Nontheless, the suit filed against Hewlett Packard in Illinois state court in 2003 didn’t satisfy CAFA upon removal. “Knudsen and Pritchett hold, and we reiterate, that creative lawyering will not be allowed to smudge the line drawn by the 2005 Act: class actions `commenced’ in state court on or before February 18, 2005, remain in state court.”
The Seventh Circuit rejected the argument that redefining the class commenced a new action, especially where the same underlying transaction is at issue: “Amendments to class definitions do not commence new suits.”