Constant v. IHOP, case no. 07-0072 (N.D. Ala. 2007)

Reach of CAFA Spreads Smoothly Like Pancake Batter in the Griddle!You remember those nights don’t you? You and a few buddies drinking multiple pots of coffee, chain smoking, discussing the burning issues of the day in that booth at IHOP. Well, the members of the CAFA Law Blog editorial staff still have those late night IHOP round table chats, and what burning issues do you think are discussed? You guessed it, CAFA jurisprudence. So it should come as no surprise to any of our loyal readers that when we recently sat down for our weekly CAFA-biscuits and gravy coffee chat, the discussion regarding the recent memorandum opinion issued by the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division in Constant v. International House of Pancakes, Inc. was one hot hash brown! Ironically, the sound of the carefully mixed pancake batter smacking the searing griddle, slowly spreading to the farthest recesses of the pan struck the biscuits and gravy crew as a perfect segue into the implications of Constant.

The Constant decision illustrates how CAFA decisions are spreading to non-class-action jurisprudential discussions, at least in the 11th Circuit. Constant was not a class action, and, therefore, did not address CAFA, at least not directly. 

Despite this fact, the Court applied the procedural burdens outlined in the Lowery decision to removal in a non-class action, diversity context.  (Editors’ Note:  See the CAFA Law Blog analysis of Lowery posted on May 15, 2007).  The Court noted that prior to Lowery, in cases when the plaintiff did not specify damages, removal requests supported by a mere assertion that the amount in controversy was exceeded and citing quantum jurisprudence from similar Alabama tort cases were routinely granted, and in those cases the plaintiff’s only hope for remand was to concede foregoing any claim above the jurisdictional amount. However, the Court noted that Lowery, as explained in this Blog’s prior post, marked a dramatic shift in removal jurisprudence generally, and placed the burden of proving removal proper on the party attempting to remove the case. Post-Lowery, the removal inquiry for all matters, whether grounded in CAFA or not, is squarely limited to the allegations appearing in the state court complaint, in materials furnished by the plaintiff, and in any substantive law that specifically outlines the expectation damages that the plaintiff may be entitled to receive.

So it appears, at least in the 11th Circuit, the shell is cracked and CAFA is spreading rapidly. We will be watching intently to see just what kind of ingredients are added to the omelet next.  Pass the maple syrup, please.

By the way, if you wish to have an IHOP discussion like we do, click here for the IHOP nearest you.