Jésus Trilla-Pinero v. Puerto Rico, 557 F.Supp.2d 258 (D.Puerto Rico, Jun. 04, 2008)

Have you ever thought about CAFA and wondered where it stands in the cosmic order? Ever ponder the mysteries of CAFA and think WWJD? Of course, we’re talking about Jésus Trilla-Pinero, pronounced “Hey, Zeus…” the plaintiff in today’s commencement tale.  (Editors’ Note:  Who did you think we were talking about?)  Well, we at the CAFA Law Blog recently unearthed this little gem of CAFA divinity and found that, strangely enough, Jésus doesn’t care much for CAFA, or federal court. Judge for yourself in this excerpt from the sacred book of CAFA:

And lo, it came to pass that on the 6th day of March in the year of 2000, Jésus did fileth a class action in the Court of the First Instance of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. 

And in the sacred text of the original complaint, he did claim that Shell Company Puerto Rico and Total Petroleum, aka the Pharisees, were violators of Puerto Rico Law 157 by selling gasoline products without a mandatory temperature adjustment required under Puerto Rico Law 157, and by generally doing other funky stuff with their products. (Editors’ Note:  We’re not positive, but we’re pretty sure that this one didn’t make Moses’ top ten list of no-no’s).

Then, on February 8, 2008, Jésus, on behalf of the multitudes, filed a third amended complaint with the Puerto Rico Commonwealth court, redefining claims and adding nine new names to his list of sinners. In the third amended complaint, Jésus redefined his claims to change the method of measuring the temperature adjustment used by the defendants in terms of the amount of energy of a gallon of gasoline, rather than on the price of the gasoline. 

Upon receipt the third amended complaint, Total and Shell filed a notice of removal under CAFA. In their notice of removal, Total and Shell asserted that the third amended complaint constituted the commencement of a new action. 

Jésus disagreed and he filed a motion to remand.  In his motion to remand he argued that CAFA did not apply to his case because it was commenced well before CAFA’s effective date.

After considering the nature of the amendments to the class claims from the third amended complaint, the Court sided with Jésus and found that amending the definition of the temperature adjustment did not change the nature of the claims. Instead, the court found that the change was nothing more than a “workaday change” in the terminology of the claim.

Shell and Total went on to argue that the addition of the nine new defendants constituted the commencement of a new suit for CAFA purposes. Shell and Total forgot one important detail—none of the newly added defendants joined in or sought the removal. 

Jésus didn’t forget, and neither did the court. Noting that the First Circuit had not yet stated whether the addition of a new defendant constitutes the commencement of a new suit only as to the new defendant, or if it allowed an old defendant to remove, the District of Puerto Rico followed the Fifth Circuit (Braud v. Transp. Serv. Co., 445 F.3d 801, 804 (5th Cir. 2006)) and the Seventh Circuit (Schillinger v. Union Pac. R.R., 425 F.3d 330. 333 (7th Cir. 2005)) to hold that the addition of a new defendant results in the commencement of a new suit only as to the newly added defendant.  And so, the court remanded the case. (Editors’ Note:  See the CAFA Law Blog analysis of Braud posted on May 24, 2006 and the CAFA Law Blog analysis of Schillnger posted on October 24, 2005).

All at once the offenders of Jésus grasped the reality of being thrown down from the mountain and back into the depths of state court from whence they had come. And, upon the recitation of the final ruling by the district court judge, wrote with the fiery fountain pen of divine justice, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.   Then, at the end of the tribulation of the motion to remand, and after the Order of remand had been delivered from on high, Jésus did stand on the top step of the court house to extend his arm to point at the offenders and there he was heard to say with thunderous voice, just as Jesus Quinatana did in the Big Lebowski: “No one $#@!’s with the Jésus…”