In this appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed a remand order after the plaintiff conceded that, in determining the amount in controversy, the district court did not fully consider sample data submitted by the defendant.
The plaintiff filed this putative class action in California state court, alleging violations of various California labor laws. The defendant removed, invoking CAFA, and the plaintiff filed a motion to remand, which the district court granted.
The sole issue in this appeal was whether the defendant established CAFA’s amount-in-controversy requirement. In his appellee brief, the plaintiff conceded that the district court did not fully consider data submitted by the defendant to support CAFA jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit noted that this sample data alone was sufficient to establish that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million. And, at oral argument, the plaintiff conceded this point. While the court cautioned that subject-matter jurisdiction is not a matter of consent, the evidence submitted by the defendant established by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million. Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s remand order.
This case, while not groundbreaking, provides a friendly reminder that the removing defendant bears the burden of establishing CAFA’s amount-in-controversy requirement by a preponderance of the evidence. E.g., LaCross v. Knight Transp. Inc., 775 F.3d 1200, 1202 (9th Cir. 2015); Perritt v. Westlake Vinyls Co., L.P., 562 F. App’x 228, 231 (5th Cir. 2014). Additionally, the Supreme Court recently clarified the removing defendant’s burden of proof in Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Company, LLC v. Owens, 135 S. Ct. 547, 554 (2014). There, the Court held that a defendant’s notice of removal need only include “a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold.” Id. Evidence regarding the amount in controversy is not required in a defendant’s notice of removal. Id. It is only when the “defendant’s assertion of the amount in controversy is challenged . . . [that] both sides submit proof and the court decides, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has been satisfied.” Id.