Long v. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc., 2010 WL 2044524 ((W.D.Ky.), May 21, 2010)

No Shirt, No Shoes, No CLASS, No Problem! (Editors’ Note: Yes, we recognize that the caption of this case would make for some really hilarious puns. But we respect our loyal readers too much to make childish remarks about the length of body parts or the use of those limbs in sport contexts.)

Evidently in a welcoming mood, the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, who already invites litigants into the federal courthouse under the protection of CAFA before receiving class certification, recently informed litigants they could stay as long as they wanted, even if their application for class certification was rejected, or even more exciting, withdrawn voluntarily.

In Long, the plaintiffs sought class certification. Upon seeing the defendant’s response to their motion, they realized their chance of being recognized as a class was slim. So, they moved to withdraw their petition and move forward as to only their individual claims. 

This maneuver led to the easier of the two issues facing the court, deciding if it should dismiss the class action complaint or allow the plaintiffs to withdraw it. The court, obviously realizing the result would be the same with either decision, denied the plaintiffs’ original motion for class certification based on the plaintiffs’ own desire to withdraw its motion and also on the clear absence of merit for class certification.

With the plaintiffs waiving the white flag in regard to certification, the district court was faced with the more difficult of its two issues, whether the original jurisdictional status under CAFA controls the remaining claims or whether the denial of class certification status altered jurisdiction. The plaintiffs now wanted to remand their case to state court and claimed the federal court’s basis for jurisdiction, possible class treatment, had been divested. The defendant’s countered with the argument that jurisdiction is determined at the time of removal, and once removed the federal court retains jurisdiction, even if class certification is denied.

Facing a split in the circuits, the court concluded denial of class certification does not divest a district court of subject matter jurisdiction under CAFA. The main factor in jurisdiction for CAFA, therefore, is the plaintiff’s intent to seek class certification at the time of removal. The court was also persuaded by the “once jurisdiction, always jurisdiction” principle which aims to avoid unnecessary expense and delay, and noted the parties had spent over one year and significant resources merely litigating over class certification.

-Jack Stanley