Waldman v. Cingular Wireless LLC, 07-80081-CIV, 2007 WL 1970858 (S.D. Fla. Jul. 3, 2007).

Cingular Wireless proves the wisdom of the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” after receiving a favorable ruling from the USDC for the Southern District of Florida in their second shot at federal jurisdiction. After having tried and failed in 2004 to move a class action against it to federal court, Cingular took a second bite at the apple when the plaintiffs amended their complaint after the effective date of CAFA. The federal experience was much sweeter the second time around for Cingular Wireless, because this time the federal court denied the plaintiffs’ motion to remand the case.

After three years of litigating their class action against Cingular Wireless in state court, the plaintiffs—perhaps taking a second look at their complaint— filed an amended complaint in which they expanded the class description and added a new claim for injunctive relief.  Cingular Wireless, demonstrating second to none tenacity, removed the case to federal court pursuant to CAFA. This turn of events probably shocked plaintiffs, but after getting their second wind, they moved to remand, arguing that their lawsuit commenced before CAFA’s effective date.

Plaintiffs argued that the relation back doctrine should not apply to class actions under CAFA, seconding the holding of the Ninth Circuit in McAtee v. Capitol One, F.S.B. (Editors’ Note:  See the CAFA Law Blog analysis of McAtee posted on July 24, 2007).  After noting the Eleventh Circuit’s silence and the Fifth, Seventh, Eight, and Tenth Circuits’ contrary approach, the court concluded plaintiffs’ argument was akin to a dropped call, and rejected it.

Plaintiffs’ second string argument, assuming the relation back doctrine was to apply, was that their amendment to their complaint should relate back to the date of the original pre-CAFA complaint. For the second time in one opinion, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument. Instead, the court pointed to Florida’s liberal interpretation of the relation back test, which can be summarized in seconds: when a party amends a complaint to add an entirely new party or new claim, the amendment does not relate back to the date of the original pleading.

Leaving the plaintiffs to second guess their decision to amend the complaint to add an entirely new claim (and arguably new parties,with the expanded class definition), the court ruled that their post-CAFA amendment did not relate back. Therefore, the case was commenced after CAFA and was appropriately removed to federal court on the second attempt. 

Note from the Editors: Cheer up plaintiffs-you will have a second chance to make these arguments at the next level. If an appeal results in a written opinion bearing on CAFA issues, the editors of the CAFA Law Blog will do a second post on your case.