Sweeney v. Federated Retail Holdings, Inc., No. 06-10887, 2006 WL 2521410 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 30, 2006).

Michigan was unseasonably mild last February – maybe that prompted these plaintiffs to peel off their long johns and run into federal court with buck naked allegations of CAFA jurisdiction.  Details are as skimpy as a Brazilian bikini, but Judge George Caram Steeh noted that each of the two named plaintiffs claims $1 million in damages from each of the two named defendants. 

Those allegations were enough to keep the case in the Eastern District of Michigan, for now. The court declared that defense lawyers may try to oust plaintiffs down the road if discovery reveals that the emperor really has no clothes: less than 100 class members, as required by CAFA.

Defendants are accused of trying to take the shirts off plaintiffs’ backs, let alone the fig leaves from their … never mind. Filed in February 2006, plaintiffs claim that defendants are trying to strip them under cover of a Michigan statute providing civil recovery for merchants victimized by shoplifting. According to the opinion, plaintiffs alleged defendants’ actions were “tantamount to civil extortion.”

Not even the judge could say whether there are 100 class members. Plaintiffs will have a chance during discovery to prove their numbers, Steeh said, noting that “[d]efendants, of course, are permitted to again raise the issue of jurisdiction if appropriate, as discovery progresses.”

CAFA allows plaintiffs – even those with bare allegations – to huddle together to meet the statute’s $5 million jurisdictional amount in controversy (the court did not mention warmth and companionship). Plaintiffs alleged that there are 100 of them out there, and that was enough for the judge for the time being.

This isn’t the first time litigants have streaked into federal with nothing more than bare allegations of CAFA jurisdiction. New Jersey Federal District Judge Katharine S. Hayden told removing defendants to put some clothes on their CAFA allegations, or else, in Duruaku v. BB & T Bank, 05-5285, 2006 WL 1805887 (D. N.J. June 29, 2006).  (Editors’ Note:  See the CAFA Law Blog analysis of Duruaku posted on August 15, 2006). 

We will bring you the sequel to Sweeney  (yes, we know what it rhymes with), and, hopefully, it will not be rated X for nudity.