Phillips v. Ford Motor Company, No. 05-CV-503-DRH, 2005 WL 2654247 (S.D. Ill. Oct. 17, 2005).
The U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois has decided that the addition of two class members in a class action and the amendment of the class definition does not “commence” a new case so as to permit removal under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. In this lawsuit, the plaintiffs originally brought a class action in Illinois state court filed in October, 1999, alleging that Ford Motor Company committed fraud by using a defective vehicle painting process for its vehicles for model years 1988 through 1997. The plaintiffs subsequently amended their complaint in April, 2001, to remove model years 1988, 1996, and 1997 vehicles from the scope of the lawsuit. The state court, in September, 2003, certified a class that included owners of vehicles for the model years 1989 through 1996.
The plaintiffs, in April, 2005, filed their second amended complaint, filed well after the February 18, 2005 effective date of CAFA. The second amended complaint added two additional class members and revised the class definition to comport with the court’s certification order by including Ford vehicles manufactured in the model year 1996. Ford timely removed the case to federal court on July 15, 2005, arguing that the amended complaint had “commenced” a new action and thus, CAFA was applicable. The plaintiffs disagreed, and filed their motion to remand, arguing that no new action was commenced by the actions taken in the second amended complaint.
In resolving the plaintiffs’ motion for remand, U. S. District Judge David R. Herndon, in a series of string cites, noted that under established Seventh Circuit law, removals are narrowly construed and the burden of proof to show federal jurisdiction falls on the party seeking removal. Judge Herndon, relying primarily on Scorsch v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 415 F.3d 748 (7th Cir. 2005) (see CAFA Blog summary posted on September 4, 2005), found that amendments to class definitions do not ordinarily commence a new suit, since the “workaday routine in class suits do not initiate distinct claims.” The court held that the plaintiffs’ addition of two new class members and the change in the class definition to conform with the state court’s certification order was precisely the sort of “routine” and “workaday” amendments envisioned by the Seventh Circuit in Scorsch which would not constitute the “commencement” of a new case under CAFA, and that, accordingly, remand was proper.