Salazar v. Avis Budget Group, Inc., 2008 WL 5054108 (S.D. Cal. November 20, 2008)

Workers: “We’ve been working on the railroad all the live long day without a break boss.”

Bossman: “Obviously someone has been taking breaks because someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah …”

Ok, that was cheesy … we here at the CAFA Law Blog try our best to spice up even the most mundane of topics, but sometimes we just have nothing to work with …this is one of those times.

This wage and hour case was brought by automobile mechanics, lube technicians or mechanics helpers who allege they were deprived of meal breaks in violation of California state law. The defendants removed the action to federal court pursuant to CAFA, and a subsequent motion to remand was denied. 

The plaintiffs moved for class certification which was denied. The court held that individual issues predominated because the law required the defendants to “provide” meal periods to employees, rather than “ensure” employees took meal periods. 

The plaintiffs filed a motion to remand arguing that the court’s denial of class certification eliminated CAFA subject matter jurisdiction, thus divesting the court of federal matter jurisdiction altogether. 

The court, recognizing a split of authorities on this issue, agreed with the plaintiffs and remanded the case back to state court. The court reasoned that when it denied class certification, it determined there was not – and never was – CAFA diversity jurisdiction. 

Although removal appeared to be proper at the time the initial motion to remand was denied, subsequent revelations demonstrated the court never had subject matter jurisdiction. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must dismiss the action because it lacked subject matter jurisdiction at the time of removal.

The court distinguished many of the cases cited by the defendants because those cases involved post removal changes in jurisdictional facts. In this case, the court decided a certifiable class did not – and never did – exist and made an analogy to diversity cases in which, for example, a court learns a party is actually from Arizona and not from California, thereby destroying diversity.

The defendants further argued that the plain language of CAFA requires that the case remain in federal court. They argued that (1) CAFA applies to class actions “before or after the entry of a class certification order,” and that (2) CAFA further defines a “class action” as “any civil action filed under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure . . .” (emphasis added). The court held that it seems more likely that Congress wanted to ensure courts have jurisdiction over putative class actions prior to determination on class certification.

Probably the most important thing to take away from this case is to remember that the old adage still rings true: “don’t bite the hand that feeds you . . .” – no – “the early bird gets the worm” – no – “the pen is mightier than the sword” . . . nevermind.