Brill v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 2005 WL 2230193 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 8, 2005).
The removal battle in this case turned on the interpretation by Illinois U. S. District Judge John W. Darrah of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the federal statute invoked by James Brill, the plaintiff who brought his putative class action in Illinois state court against Countrywide Home Loans, and the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, which was invoked by Countrywide. Brill complained that unsolicited fax advertisements were transmitted by a Countrywide employee to some 3,800 Illinois fax machines, including Brill’s, and that the unsolicited faxes used Brill’s machine, toner and paper. Brill also included an Illinois state law claim for conversion. Countrywide removed on the basis of federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act and federal question jurisdiction, and Brill moved to remand, claiming that there was no CAFA or other federal jurisdiction.
Judge Darrah first examined CAFA’s jurisdictional requirements, and determined that Countrywide, as the removing party, had the burden of proof to show that the amount in controversy satisfied the $5,000,000 amount in controversy threshold. Countrywide argued that Brill had claimed treble damages, and “3,800 faxed violations X 1,500 willful violations > $5,000,000.” However, Judge Darrah determined that Countrywide had failed to meet its burden of proof to show that there was more than $5,000,000 in controversy, so there was no federal jurisdiction under CAFA.
The Court also went on to say that the language of the TCPA itself provides exclusive state court jurisdiction over private causes of action, like Brill’s in this case. “The TCPA limits jurisdiction to the state courts to hear private claims arising under the Act,” Judge Darrah declared, remanding the matter back to the Circuit Court of Cook County.