Eufaula Drugs, Inc. v. TDI Managed Care Services, Inc., No. 05:293, 2005 WL 3440635 (M.D. Ala. Dec. 14, 2005).
In this opinion, issued the same day as the Main Drug v. Aetna opinion (See the CAFA Law Blog summary of the opinion entitled “But You Ain’t Bona Fide!” posted March 14, 2006), U. S. Chief District Judge Mark E. Fuller of the Middle District of Alabama considered when an action “commences” under Alabama state law in order to discern whether the Class Action Fairness Act could provide federal jurisdiction for this class action originally filed in state court and removed to federal court. As in the Main Drug case, this action involved an independently owned pharmacy, Eufaula Drugs, alleging that the defendant insurance and benefit management companies failed to reimburse it and others similarly situated for brand name prescriptions under a stipulated formula.
It seems Eufaula Drugs got itself in a tight spot, not by running out of pomade or hair nets, but by filing its petition without the “bona fide intention of having it immediately served” on the defendants. Eufaula filed its complaint in Alabama state court on February 14, 2005, four days before the effective date of CAFA, but did not serve the defendants until February 28, ten days after CAFA took effect. TDI and its fellow defendants, ever the opportunistic bunch, capitalized on this delay, and removed the case to the Middle District of Alabama, alleging federal jurisdiction under CAFA.
Beginning the commencement discussion by noting that the U. S. Supreme Court directs courts to look to state law to determine when an action commences, Judge Fuller acknowledged that Alabama Rule of Civil Procedure 3(a) provides that “a civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court.” However, Rule 3(a) did not end the judge’s analysis. He stated, “[i]n the context of determining whether an action has been commenced within the statute of limitations, the filing of the complaint commences the action only if it is filed ‘with the bona fide intention of having it immediately served.'” Eufaula attempted to distinguish its delay arguing that the bona fide requirement only applied in statute of limitation determinations.
Ulysses Everett McGill would probably have responded, “I’ll tell you what I am – I’m the damn paterfamilias!” However, Judge Fuller, showing more restraint, did not. As in Main Drug, Judge Fuller concluded that since the pharmacy did not file the summons along with the pre-CAFA complaint, it failed to demonstrate a “bona fide intention” to pursue the action immediately. Thus, the February 28th filing of the summonses controlled when the action was commenced under Alabama state law for CAFA-related jurisdictional purposes.
However, the odyssey wasn’t over there, as the court ordered the parties to brief which party bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction under CAFA, and to provide specific evidence supporting the argument as to whether the $5 million amount in controversy requirements of CAFA was met. It remains to be seen whether TDI and its band of defendants can overcome the “ob-stac-les” of escaping to federal court. Certainly, there will be a sequel for the Soggy Bottom Boys. Stay tuned for Eufaula Drugs II.