In re Hp Inkjet Printer Litigation, No. 05-3580 (N.D. CA 02/05/09)

Hewlett Packard’s Inkjet printer’s ink cartridges may run out too quickly, but its jurisdiction in federal court does not. 

From the “Completely Obvious” file, this case arises from allegations against HP that its ink cartridges use technology that prematurely tells consumers that they are low on ink and need to be replaced. And this whole time you thought you were just printing out too many color pictures of your dog.

Anyways, the suit was originally filed contemplating a nationwide class. However, the Northern District of California recognized that there are just too many angry, militant printer users out there and refused to certify the class finding that it would be unmanageably overbroad. 

In response, the plaintiffs redefined the class as just citizens of California. Since HP is also a resident of California and fearing that minimal diversity had now been destroyed, HP moved the court to certify that it still had jurisdiction to hear the case.

For guidance, the court turned to a Supreme Court case from 1938, back when a printer was kindly, bespectacled old gentleman and not a chunk of plastic that you want to throw out of your office window everyday or take out to a field and beat with a baseball bat Office Space style. 

In this case, the Court had held that “events occurring subsequent to removal which reduce the amount recoverable, whether beyond the plaintiff’s control or the result of his volition, do not oust the district court’s jurisdiction once it has attached.” See St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 293 (1938). In other words, once they have it, they have it.

From an examination of the Senate Report on CAFA which noted the possibility of this exact situation, the court determined that Congress intended for this long standing rule to be extended to CAFA for both issues dealing with amount in question and diversity. Even though federal courts from around the country had been going both ways on this issue, the Northern District certified that it still had jurisdiction finding that the plaintiff had pled the nationwide class in good faith.

So even though minimal diversity may go out the window, like you wish your printer would, jurisdiction in federal court does not. The court would go on to say that it should keep the case for reasons of judicial economy in that several motions had already been fully litigated (and not to mention the hundreds of dollars in ink that it probably cost to print all of them out).

By: Chase Boeneke