Lewis v. Ford Motor Co., Slip Copy, 2009 WL 840233 (W.D.Pa., Mar 26, 2009)(NO. CA 09-164)

Although some people might enjoy a front-end that vibrates too much, owners of Ford F-250s and F-350s filed a class action suit in state court against Ford. The suit alleged that the vibratations were not pleasurable and constituted a breach of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

As expected, Ford removed to United States District Court for Pennsylvania under CAFA.  As expected, the plaintiffs moved to remand.

At issue was subject matter jurisdiction. For federal subject matter jurisdiction, CAFA requires that the amount in controversy be a minimum of $5 million and the class members be at least 100 in total.

Ford bore the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction under the legal certainty standard. One fact that proved extremely important was the plaintiffs’ complaint was silent on both the number of class members and the amount in controversy and, thus, failed to assert any counter figures to Ford’s claims. 

To evidence federal subject matter jurisdiction, Ford provided a declaration by one of their own engineers, which estimated the damages and the number of cars sold with a vibration dysfunction (Rumor has it that Ford is working with Cialis for a cure). Of course these homegrown estimates provided figures that would satisfy CAFA subject matter jurisdiction.

The plaintiffs alleged that Ford’s engineer’s estimate was “pulled from thin air” and without foundation. Despite playing for the home team, the court concluded the engineer’s opinion was enough for two reasons. First, the plaintiffs failed to provide any counter evidence that the engineer was wrong. Second, the engineers declaration is under penalty of perjury and based on his “personal knowledge.” Thus, his opinion was more than mere speculation and suitable for the Court’s subject matter determination. 

The court also noted that the plaintiffs’ complaint was so broad that it left them open to a very broad class of members. The plaintiffs defined the class as “all persons who purchased class vehicles in the state of Pennsylvania.” 

The lesson learned is that if you’re a party pooper and do not like vibrating front ends, the way to stay in state court is a narrower complaint and counter-evidence to federal jurisdiction.

By:  Tanner Magee