Scott v. Cerner Corp., 2015 WL 5227431 (W.D. Mo. Sep. 8, 2015).

A district court in Missouri remanded a wage and hour class action back to the state court, exercising its right to decline jurisdiction under the “interests of justice” exception to CAFA.

The plaintiff brought a putative class action in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri against the defendant, Cerner Corporation, on behalf of current and former Delivery Consultant Analysts in its U.S. Consulting Group.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant unlawfully failed to pay overtime wages in violation of Missouri’s Minimum Wage Law (“MMWL”).  The defendant removed the action under CAFA, and the plaintiff moved to remand.

The plaintiff argued that the “interests of justice” exception warranted remand.  The interests of justice exception provides that a district court may, in the interests of justice and looking at the totality of the circumstances, decline to exercise jurisdiction over a class action if greater than one-third, but less than two-thirds, of the members of all the proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate and primary defendants are citizens of the state in which the action is originally filed.

There are six factors a district court must consider before declining to exercise CAFA jurisdiction under the “interests of justice” exception. The first factor is whether the case involves matters of national or interstate interest. The Court determined that the alleged acts forming the basis of the lawsuit occurred primarily in Missouri, so the case was not one of national or interstate interest.

The second factor the Court considered was whether the claims would be governed by the laws of the state in which the action was originally filed or by the laws of a different state.  In response to the defendant’s argument that the relevant Missouri statute expressly mandates interpretation in accordance with the FLSA, the Court explained that the inquiry is not whether federal law would be instructive in determining state law, but rather whether the claims asserted would be governed by laws of the state where the action was originally filed, in this case Missouri, or by the laws of other states.  Here, because the plaintiff asserted claims pursuant to a Missouri statute, the Court concluded that Missouri law would govern, weighing in favor of remand.

The third factor, whether the case had been pleaded in a manner to avoid federal jurisdiction, also weighed in favor of remand.  The Court found that here, the plaintiff asserted a good faith basis for pleading in state court because all putative class members resided in Missouri at the time they were employed as Delivery Consultants. The Court accordingly gave deference to the plaintiff’s forum selection.

The fourth factor the Court had to consider was whether the forum where the suit was brought had a “distinct nexus with the class members, the alleged harm, or the defendants.” As the Court previously  noted, all alleged actions giving rise to the lawsuit took place in Missouri and all putative class members resided in Missouri during their time of employment as Delivery Consultants for Cerner Corporation, which is located in Missouri, so there was undoubtedly a nexus between Missouri and the alleged harm, class members, and defendant.

The fifth factor requires a comparison of the number of citizens inside and outside of the forum and the dispersal of class members. The Court found that “the number of Missouri class members [was] substantially larger than the number of citizens from other states, and a significant number of class members [were] concentrated in Missouri,” so this factor also weighed in favor of remand.

The sixth and final factor the Court considered was whether another class action asserting the current claims or similar claims was filed in the preceding three years. The Court explained that the class action at issue involved different departments, job duties, job titles, and time periods than any other claims filed in the preceding three years.

Because each of the six factors that must be considered under the “interests of justice” exception to CAFA jurisdiction weighed in favor of remand, the Court declined to exercise CAFA jurisdiction and granted the plaintiff’s motion to remand.

— Amanda R. Laviage