Tate v. U.S. Bank National Association, 06-1204 (D.Or. 4/17/07), 2007 WL 1170608.

You don’t have to remember playing the “Oregon Trail” computer game from your youth to know that if you don’t have enough money to buy supplies, you cannot proceed. In Tate v. U.S. Bank National Association, the plaintiffs admitted their claims were less than the $5 million CAFA threshold, thus the Bank could not force them to proceed in the Oregon District Court. 

The court relied on Lowdermilk v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Assoc., 06-592 (D.Or. 8/6/06) 2006 WL 4100011, aff’d 479 F.3d 994 (9th Cir. 2007), and it found plaintiffs’ statement regarding the aggregate total of their claims do not exceed five million dollars was a specific expression of the amount sought and apparent on the face of the complaint. (Editors’ Note:  See the CAFA Law Blog analysis of Lowdermilk posted on July 30, 2007). The court determined that a plaintiff may evade federal court simply by asking for less money than the jurisdictional threshold. To overcome the plaintiff’s assertion, a defendant must contradict the plaintiff’s own assessment of damage and show that the plaintiff is legally certain to recover at least five million dollars. 

After an examination of the proffered evidence, the court concluded that the defendant could not overcome the plaintiffs’ assertion, thus the case was remanded. The defendant’s concern that the plaintiffs could later amend to allege more damages was also quelled. The court, through the Magistrate Judge’s Finding and Recommendations, assured the defendant that if the plaintiffs increase their alleged damage amount, removal is appropriate under CAFA, because CAFA eliminates the one-year limitation for removing a case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction.

Click here for the Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendations which the District Court referenced in its decision.

In the end, if traveling the Oregon trail and you want to avoid federal court, bring enough supplies, but not too many to get you over the $5 million CAFA threshold.