Awaida v. Pfizer, Inc., No. Civ. 05-425 2005 WL _________ (Westlaw citation unavailable)(W.D. OK June 7, 2005).
Judge Lee R. West of the Western District of Oklahoma ruled in favor of the defendant Pfizer, Inc. in a class action filed hours before President Bush signed the Class Action Fairness Act into law. The plaintiff, Ghaleb Awaida, filed his class action lawsuit in Oklahoma state court against Pfizer, seeking to represent a statewide class of plaintiffs involving the drug Celebrex, at 8:07 a.m. CST, less than three hours before President Bush signed CAFA into effect at 11:46 a.m. EST. Pfizer then removed the case to federal court, claiming federal jurisdiction under CAFA.
In his motion to remand, Awaida argued that legislation does not become law until the precise moment it is approved by the executive branch, and thus Awaida’s state suit was “commenced” prior to the time CAFA became effective. Judge West rejected this argument, holding that, with respect to CAFA’s enactment language, “fractions of the day are not recognized.” Thus, the Court found that CAFA applied to Awaida’s action and that Pfizer had properly removed the case to federal court.
The Court then addressed the amount in controversy requirement of CAFA, and on that issue, concluded that CAFA’s $5 million amount in controversy was satisfied, since Awaida sought restitution of all profits that Pfizer received relating to the sale of Celebrex in Oklahoma, rescission of all funds expended for the purchase of Celebrex and the cost of a medical monitoring program and research fund, all of which far exceeded the $5 million CAFA minimum amount in controversy.
Judge West ruled that Pfizer had the burden of proof to establish federal jursidiction under CAFA, thus continuing the developing split of authority as to which party bears the burden — the plaintiff seeking remand or the defendant who removed the case to federal court. Judge West found that Pfizer had met its burden of proof to establish jurisdiction as there was minimal diversity of citizenship (there was, in fact, was complete diversity among the parties) and more than $5,000,000 in controversy. Consequently, the Court denied Awaida’s motion for remand.