Cunningham Charter Corp. v. Learjet, Inc., __ F.3d __, 2010 WL 199627 (7th Cir. Jan. 22, 2010)

We are honored again to bring you another guest column from one of the smartest Chicago lawyers from below the Mason-Dixon line.  Our regular, loyal readers know we are referring to none other than Gabriel Crowson, a consumer finance defense attorney of the Howrey firm.   Heeeere’s, Gabe….


In a case of first impression, the Seventh Circuit recently reversed a district court’s ruling that the denial of class certification eliminated jurisdiction under CAFA. Cunningham Charter had sued Learjet in Illinois state court, asserting breach of warranty claims, on behalf of itself and all buyers of Learjets who had received the same warranty (not a bad class to be a part of). 

Not wanting to litigate in state court, Learjet removed to federal court under CAFA. Once the case was in federal court, Cunningham Charter filed a Rule 23 motion for class certification. The district court denied the class certification motion and then ruled that the denial meant that there was no longer CAFA jurisdiction and thus remanded the suit back to state court. Learjet filed a petition for appeal to the Seventh Circuit.

In reversing the district court’s remand ruling, the Seventh Circuit held that federal jurisdiction under CAFA does not depend on class certification, joining the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion in Vega v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., 564 F.3d 1256, 1268 n.12 (11th Cir. 2009). 

In doing so, the Court noted that CAFA applies “to any class action [within the Act’s scope] before or after the entry of a class certification order” and that there is no requirement in CAFA that a class action be certified before the case can be removed. According to the Court, the better interpretation of this language is that jurisdiction does not hinge on class certification. The Court further held that such an interpretation was also a vindication of the general principle that once jurisdiction has been properly invoked, it is not lost by subsequent developments in the suit. As the Court so eloquently put it, a case “should not be shunted between court systems; litigation is not ping-pong.” 

The Seventh Circuit’s decision in Cunningham will allow defendants, who have successfully filed CAFA removals, to breathe a sigh of relief. Those defendants can rest assured that the defeat of class certification (or the certification of a smaller class than that originally sought by plaintiffs) will not give plaintiffs the opportunity to seek a remand and re-litigate class certification in state court.