Komeshak v. Illinois Farmers Insurance Co., 2008 WL 3875265

Do YOU know when CAFA was enacted? And I mean the Month (hint: think Valentine’s[1]), Day (hint: think voting age[2]) and Year (hint: think Hurricane Katrina[3]) it was enacted…do you know? C’mon, venture a guess. One tiny, little guess. A true CAFA-er would know! If you still don’t know and haven’t cheated by looking at the footnotes, read on and ye shall find out. It’s kind of an important detail. 

Chiropractor plaintiff (the “good ‘doctor’”) filed a class action suit in Illinois state court on February 11, 2005 (yes, the date is important) alleging that insurance company defendant (“IFIC”) wasn’t paying him properly for treatment provided to insureds under automobile insurance policies issued by IFIC. IFIC filed a motion to dismiss alleging that the good doctor lacked standing. However, in June 2008, before the court ruled on the motion to dismiss, IFIC agreed to allow the good doctor to amend his suit, whereby he added his closely held corporation as a plaintiff and asserted the same claims as in his original suit.

On June 12, 2008 (this date isn’t really important), IFIC removed the case to federal court pursuant to CAFA. 

It is undisputed that the CAFA requirements (100 or more class members, minimal diversity of citizenship, and claims in excess of $5,000,000) are met in this suit. The question at issue here is whether the suit commenced ON or AFTER the effective date of CAFA (which is February 18, 2005)? 

If it did, CAFA applies; if it did not, CAFA does not apply. Remember, CAFA is not retroactive, and the date of “commencement” of a lawsuit for purposes of CAFA removal is determined by the law of the state where the class action was originally filed. I know…the suspense is hardly bearable!!

IFIC argued that the addition of the good doctor’s closely held corporation in June 2008 commenced a new action which triggered jurisdiction under CAFA. IFIC based its argument on the federal rule that federal jurisdiction does not attach if plaintiff never had standing to bring a suit. Without deciding the standing issue (although the court “notes” that IFIC’s standing argument was likely waived when IFIC failed to raise it), the Court found that under Illinois law, “all that is needed for the new plaintiff’s claim to relate back is a finding that the original complaint furnished the defendant with all the information necessary to prepare a defense to the subsequent claim.” 

The court found that this was “certainly the case here;” for all that had changed was the addition of the good doctor’s closely held corporation as a plaintiff. “The Court does not view this as a close call. The addition of [the good doctor’s closely held corporation] as a plaintiff relates back to the original complaint, and, therefore, this action was “commenced” before CAFA became effective. It is not removable under the statute.” 

The good doctor had filed his original suit exactly one week before CAFA went into effect; therefore, the good doctor’s motion to remand was granted and the suit was remanded to state court for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction.     

[1] Really? February.

[2] Seriously? 18.

[3] Which rock do you live under? 2005.