Richina v. Maytag Corporation, No. Civ. S 05 – 1281- MCE JKM, 2005 WL 2810100 (E.D. Ca. Oct. 26, 2005).
An allegedly defective Maytag oven beeping at all hours of the day and night resulted in this class action litigation originally filed in California Superior Court in November, 2004. The plaintiff, Armida Richina, complained that her 1993 Maytag oven started its strange behavior in 1998 and when the company couldn’t fix the problem, she filed her state court action under the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, the California Unfair Business Practices Act and other state statutes for fraudulent concealment and nondisclosure. Richina filed her first amended complaint in 2004, following which Maytag prevailed in part on a demurrer, which prompted her to file a second amended complaint in May, 2005, several months after the February 18th effective date of the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. Maytag immediately removed the case to federal court, claiming federal jurisdiction under CAFA.
The remand battle in California federal court turned on whether Maytag’s partial success on the demurrer effectively obliterated the first amended complaint filed by the plaintiff, and whether the amended pleadings “commenced” a new action for CAFA jurisdictional purposes. U. S. District Judge Morrison C. England, Jr., interpreting California case law, concluded that Richina’s essential claim regarding fraudulent concealment of the defect in the beeping oven had survived the demurrer, and that claim had been filed before the adoption of CAFA by the federal Congress and had remained “substantively constant from Plaintiff’s first filing to her last.” Judge England reasoned that since that claim had not changed, the post-CAFA second amended complaint containing the same claim did not “commence” a new action under the Class Action Fairness Act so as to vest federal jurisdiction under the Act, so remand to state court was proper.
Judge England also denied plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees, finding that Maytag’s removal was not legally defective, and that Maytag had “advanced a factually, as opposed to legally, vacillant argument.”