Vanegas v. Dole Food Co., Inc., No. 09-181 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 29, 2009)

Well, this post has absolutely nothing to do with those banana-seated bikes. Sorry. Rather, this very brief, non-reported case highlights the fact that – in a banana peel (like “in a nutshell” – c’mon!) – the CAFA removal statute “is to be ‘strictly construed against removal jurisdiction and any doubt must be resolved in favor of remand.’”

In this case, the plaintiffs, banana plantation workers from various Central American countries, sued the household-name banana producers (Dole, Chiquita, Del Monte) and a few chemical companies (Shell, Dow, Occidental) alleging a variety of claims ranging from products liability to conspiracy (what would a case be without it?).

The plaintiffs brilliantly or cleverly (depending upon whom you represent) divided themselves alphabetically and by country, into multiple suits such that each suit had less than 100 plaintiffs – and, therefore, fell short of the CAFA jurisdictional requirements.

Not surprisingly, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs designed their suits in such a manner so as to avoid federal court jurisdiction under CAFA. The court very clearly rejected the defendants’ argument, noting that “as master of their complaint,” the plaintiffs may file multiple actions with fewer than 100 plaintiffs if they so choose. Nothing under CAFA or otherwise prohibits it. The court also noted that the defendants failed to show that any plaintiff satisfied the $75,000 jurisdictional amount requirement applicable to “mass” actions.

Ultimately, the court ordered the parties to show cause (in 15 pages or less) why the suit should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or remand.

(Editors’ Note: See the CAFA Law Blog analysis of the Villareal case, a companion case of Vanegas, posted on June 2, 2009)