Moda v. Priceline.com, Inc., No. 06-56301, 2006 WL 3327871 (November 16, 2006).
What is Bill Shatner, the personable pitch man for Priceline.com, smiling about these days? No, it is not that he has re-invented himself from Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek, to Thomas Joseph Hooker on TJ Hooker, to the lovable Denny Crain on Boston Legal, or his recent induction into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. It’s not just that he has starred with Sandra Bullock in her "Miss Congeniality" movies and made a few bucks in the process. And it’s not just that he is represented by (and a close friend of) Ole Miss Law School grad and agent extraordinaire Larry Thompson (who was a boyhood resident of Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of CAFA Law Blog co Editor-in-Chief Hunter Twiford, who can say he knew Larry way back when . . .). No, instead it must be that Priceline.com won its appeal of a California district court’s order remanding to state court a putative class action. In an unpublished decision, the Ninth Circuit reversed the remand of the case to state court, in response to Priceline’s petition for leave to appeal the remand order.
A former Priceline customer, presumably believing he and his fellow Californians had not saved enough money with Priceline.com during the past eight years, filed a class action lawsuit against Priceline alleging the internet travel discounter had artificially inflated ratings for hotels represented on its website, so it could represent its prices to be 50% lower than its competitors.
Priceline represented to the court in its notice of removal that its sales to California residents during the time period at issue generated revenues in excess of $ 300,000,000, and that restoration of the putative class members to an alleged 50% discount could amount to recovery of more than $150,000,000. Although the opinion is not crystal clear on this point, it appears that Moda attacked the removal claiming Priceline had not adequately established the necessary amount was in controversy to establish federal subject matter jurisdiction under CAFA.
The Court of Appeals rejected this argument. It cited Brill v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. (which almost always shows up at these CAFA parties) to support its conclusion that the removing party does not have to admit liability in order to establish the amount in controversy for jurisdictional purposes. (Editors’ Note: See the CAFA Law Blog analysis of Brill posted on November 2, 2005). Accordingly, finding that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million, the court reversed the district court’s remand decision and reinstated the case in federal district court.