Miranda v. Weaver Popcorn Co., Inc., Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2010 WL 1929771 (C.D.Cal., May 12, 2010)(NO. EDCV10-632 PARZX)

Remember the good ole days? You know, back when Russia was still the enemy and SNL was actually funny? Back when Ford was President, Nixon was in the White House, and FDR was running this country into the ground? (Bonus points if you have any idea what movie that is from). Well, enough reminiscing. Don’t worry, this will all tie in soon. So let’s get down to brass tacks….

Say you’re a defendant and you want to remove a class action to federal court. Well, it turns out that before you can remove this shindig to the towering bastion of law that is federal court, you still have to follow well established law from the aforementioned ‘good ole days’ when removing under CAFA….at least that is what the court in Miranda tells us (and no, I’m not talking about the landmark criminal justice case). 

The defendant, Weaver Popcorn Company, Inc., sought removal of the action to federal court based on diversity of citizenship under CAFA. The court followed Abrego Abrego v Dow Chemical Co., 443 F.3d 676,685 (9th Cir. 2006) and found the party seeking removal (in all CAFA cases only the defendant can seek removal), in this case Weaver, still had the burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction under CAFA as it would in other removal cases. (Editors’ Note: See the CAFA Law Blog analysis of Abrego Abrego posted on May 25, 2006). (Editors’ Note: See the CAFA Law Blog analysis of the Seventh Circuit’s decision in First Bank posted on May 8, 2010).

Weaver did not have a problem demonstrating that at least one plaintiff and one defendant were citizens of different states, but the same cannot be said when it came to showing the aggregate amount in controversy exceeded $5 million, exclusive of interests and costs. The plaintiff failed to plead a specific amount of damages, so according to the District Court and Abrego it fell on Weaver to prove by a preponderance of evidence that the amount in controversy had been met. 

The District Court followed Abrego further and said in order to make this determination the court would have to consider the complaint, “facts in the removal petition and…summary judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal.” Weaver argued that the plaintiff was seeking as restitution an amount in excess of or equal to its total sales and that since their sales exceeded $5 million the amount in controversy had been met. The court found Weaver’s allegations concerning the amount in controversy to be conclusory and not supported by summary judgment-type evidence. 

The District Court followed law which favors strict, narrow construction against removal jurisdiction and resolves any doubt in favor of remand and found that cases under CAFA are subject to the same rules as other removal cases unless explicitly stated otherwise. The District Court found the complaint silent as to the amount in controversy and refused to interpret plaintiff’s vague prayer for relief seeking only an “order requiring Defendant to pay restitution to Plaintiff and all members of the Class” as meaning it was seeking full restitution of all amounts paid (i.e. total sales) rather than some lesser amount. The District Court found that since it was unclear based on the prayer for relief whether the plaintiff class demanded an amount in excess of $5 million, Weaver had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy had been met. Thus, the District Court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and remanded the case back to state court.

By: Jason Landry