Jenkins v. Service Corp Int’l, No. 10-4274, 2010 WL 5439001 (E.D. La. Dec. 22, 2010).

In this state law wage and hour claim, a District Court in Louisiana analyzed the plaintiffs’ numerous other state law wage and hour and FLSA claims against the defendants in multiple courts around the country, and found that it has jurisdiction under CAFA.

The plaintiffs initially filed their Louisiana state law claims along with their FLSA claims in Pennsylvania. The district court in Pennsylvania declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any of the state law claims, and, therefore, the plaintiffs reasserted their state law claims in an action filed in California state court, which included the state law claims of employees in every state where the defendants did business, including Louisiana. The action was removed to the Northern District of California, and after removal, finding that the plaintiff did not move for certification of the state law claims of employees in Louisiana; the California court granted the parties’ Stipulation and Order dismissing the claims without prejudice.   

The plaintiffs then filed this action in Louisiana state court alleging violations of various state common laws. The defendants removed this action to the Eastern District of Louisiana relying on diversity jurisdiction.

Seeking remand, the plaintiffs submitted that federal diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) was not applicable because the instant action was a class action, and, therefore, the applicable jurisdictional rules would be CAFA.  The plaintiffs argued that the defendants’ attempts to prove the jurisdictional elements were based on assumptions and speculations that were not supported by facts and evidence.

The Court, however, noted that the defendants relied on the plaintiffs’ own pleadings and discovery responses to establish that the proposed plaintiffs’ class had at least 100 members and that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million, the CAFA requirements for diversity jurisdiction. 

In establishing that the plaintiffs’ class had at least 100 members, the defendants noted: (1) the lack of geographical boundaries specified by the plaintiffs when describing the affected employees; (2) the fact that the plaintiffs did not challenge the removal to federal court based upon CAFA in the California litigation; (3) the virtually identical complaints in the Arizona and Virginia actions to the present lawsuit; (4) the total number of affected employees listed by the plaintiffs in the Arizona litigation (a total of 10,645); and (5) the plaintiffs’ allegation in the California lawsuit that the size of the class would approach 10,000 employees.

Next, the defendants made a reasonable calculation of the amount in controversy by noting: (1) the discovery responses by the plaintiffs’ in other civil actions regarding the amount of their wage claims; (2) the fact that the present amount in controversy also included the plaintiffs’ demand for attorneys’ fees; (3) the fact that the plaintiffs also demanded injunctive relief, and the costs to defendants of complying with such an order were part of the amount in controversy; and (4) the fact that the current action was a continuation of the plaintiffs’ efforts over the past four years, as well as the recent sixteen additional actions filed against the defendants in state courts around the country.

The Court, thus, concluded that the defendants met their burden of proof under CAFA by analyzing the plaintiffs’ numerous FLSA and wage claims against the defendants in multiple courts around the country. The Court remarked that although the number of class members and the amount in controversy might not be apparent from the face of the plaintiffs’ complaint, the defendants had effectively used “other evidence” to establish the existence of these CAFA requirements for diversity jurisdiction.  

In addition, the Court found that even if diversity jurisdiction was not established under CAFA, the jurisdiction existed under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).  Specifically, the Court noted that the parties did not dispute that complete diversity among the parties existed, and the $75,000 amount in controversy requirement had been persuasively established through the evidence used by the defendants to satisfy the amount in controversy requirement under CAFA.

Accordingly, the Court denied the plaintiffs’ motion to remand.