In re Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., 2010 WL 1980172 (C.A. 7 (Wis.) May 19, 2010).
In a well-known children’s tale, a little engine overcame obstacle and defeat, pulling a long train over a high mountain while repeating (Come on, you remember.) “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Just recently, out of the Seventh Circuit, federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act won a similar victory. Even after the plaintiffs decided not to pursue class certification, amending their complaint post-removal to eliminate class allegations, CAFA jurisdiction was not defeated.
Allen Moore and his fellow Bagley, Wisconsinites (Say Cheese!) filed suit in state court against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (“BNSF”). This class of local property owners alleged that the railroad’s failure to inspect and maintain a railroad trestle caused the town to flood and caused damage to their property.
BNSF removed the case to federal court under CAFA. In response, the property owners moved to remand the case.
When that motion was denied, they asked to amend their complaint to omit the class allegations. The district court allowed the amendment and interpreted the plaintiff’s motion as an implied motion to remand the case. Upon granting it, the court explained that the jurisdictional analysis was now based on the amended complaint and since the amended complaint contained no class allegations, CAFA jurisdiction was defeated (“I think I can’t, I think I can’t, I think I can’t). BSNF filed under 28 USC § 1453, requesting leave to appeal the district court’s order of remand.
The Seventh Circuit held that jurisdiction under CAFA still existed even though, after removal, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to omit their class allegations (“But you can!”). Jurisdiction is measured at the time of removal, and filings made post-removal (albeit a long train or high mountain) do not affect it.
A similar issue was addressed in Cunningham Charter Corp. v. Learjet, Inc. In that case, this court held that jurisdiction stands, in a case removed under CAFA, even upon district court denial of class certification. This is because CAFA jurisdiction is triggered when a case is filed as a class action and denial of class certification does not change this. (Editors’ Note: See the CAFA Law Blog analysis of Cunningham posted on Feb. 3, 2010.)
So, the moral of the story: In true Little Engine that Could fashion, the Little Jurisdiction that Could was not defeated, even after the plaintiffs decided not to pursue class certification and amended their complaint post-removal to eliminate class allegations. The Seventh Circuit vacated the district court’s remand order.
By: Sunny Mayhall