Hensley v. Computer Sciences Corp., No. 05-CV-4034 (W.D. Ark. Oct. 28, 2005) (No Westlaw citation).
The United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, following the Tenth Circuit’s decision in Pritchett v. Office Depot (Editor’s Note: See CAFA Law Blog summary of Pritchett posted on October 23, 2005), has concluded that neither the date of removal nor the date of service constitute the date of “commencement” for the purpose of determining whether there is federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. In this case, the plaintiffs filed suit in Arkansas state court against 584 defendants, asserting various state law claims, including civil conspiracy, breach of contract and fraud arising from the defendant’s use of certain software programs to adjust bodily injury insurance claims. Some of the defendants removed the case to federal court, arguing that 576 of the 584 defendants were fraudulently joined and, in the absence of the fraudulently joined defendants, there would be complete diversity of citizenship. The defendants also argued that, although the case was filed in state court prior to CAFA’s date of enactment, the court nevertheless had jurisdiction under CAFA as a result of the date of service and the date of removal having occured post-CAFA.
The district court rejected both arguments. On the fraudulent joinder issue, the court held that the plaintiffs had sufficiently pled a civil conspiracy claim against the allegedly fraudulently joined defendants and thus, removal on those grounds was improper. The court then noted that the state suit was filed on February 7, 2005, clearly prior to CAFA’s enactment date of February 18th. The court, citing Pritchett for the proposition that the date of filing is generally the date that a case is commenced under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, rejected the defendants’ contentions that the removal date or the date of service were the proper dates to determine commencement and granted the plaintiffs’ motion for remand.