New Century Health Quality Alliance, Inc. v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Inc., 2005 WL 2219827 (W.D. Mo. Sept. 13, 2005).
In yet another remand battle over a case initially filed in state court before the effective date of the Class Action Fairness Act and removed to federal court after the adoption of CAFA, the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri considered the issue of the date of the “commencement” of the action for federal jurisdiction determination purposes. New Century Health brought a putative class action in Missouri state court on behalf of itself, physicians and other heath providers, making a host of state law claims against various health insurance companies, including price fixing, illegal restraint against trade, and monopolistic and oligopolistic activities. The state court action was filed on February 14, 2005, four days before CAFA became law. The plaintiffs subsequently amended their peition some five times, three of which were after CAFA became law on February 18, 2005.
Senior District Judge Scott O. Wright examined the plaintiffs’ Fifth Amended Petition, filed on April 25, 2005, which provided corrected the names of certain party defendants, and added another representative plaintiff. The defendants had removed the case to federal court on June 16, 2005, arguing that the case was “commenced” by the addition of another defendant, post-CAFA. The “commencement” argument gained no traction in federal court, and Judge Wright granted the plaintiffs’ motion to remand, since the “new” defendant was simply the correction of the corporate name of a previously named defendant.
In addition to agreeing with the Pritchett court that the date of commencement of an action, absent unique circumstances, is the date the action was initially filed, thus rejecting the defense argument that it is the removal date which triggers CAFA coverage, the court also concluded that the plaintiffs’ Fifth Amended petition related back to the original state court filing, since the new pleading simply corrected a “misnomer” regarding a defendant’s prior identification.