Lee v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 2005 WL 2456955 (E.D. Mo. October 5, 2005).
This is one of several federal district court decisions which examine what sort of amended complaint might “commence” an action under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. In this case, the plaintiff filed a consumer class action against CitiMortgage in Missouri state court on April 30, 2004, before CAFA became law, for alleged failures to properly apply mortgage payments, pay taxes held in escrow and delaying refunds of payments from escrow. The trial court dismissed the case with leave to amend, and the plaintiff later filed her amended complaint on July 5, 2005, almost five months after CAFA’s February 18, 2005 effective date. CitiMortgage timely removed, contending that the more specific allegations of the amended complaint “commenced” a new action and thus triggered the application of CAFA; however, Missouri Federal District Judge Jean C. Hamilton disagreed.
Judge Hamilton, citing Knudsen v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 411 F.3d 805 (7th Cir. 2005), ruled that “An action is ‘commenced’ for purposes of CAFA when it is filed in state court.” CitiMortgage argued that the dismissal of the pre-CAFA action stopped that action, and that its re-filing post-CAFA constituted a new action subject to and removable under CAFA. Judge Hamilton held, instead, that the lower court’s ruling allowing the dismissal of the action was not a final, non-appealable order, since it allowed the plaintiff to amend and re-file, thus “continuing” the case.
Though the court ultimately found that the amended complaint related back to the original pre-CAFA original filing, a footnote considered what sort of amendments might go the other way, quoting. These amendments, said Judge Hamilton, could include, in Knudsen’s words, “any other step sufficiently distinct that courts would treat it as independent for limitations purposes.” granting plaintiff’s motion to remand.