The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID HERNDON, District Judge
Before the Court is a Motion to Remand submitted by Plaintiffs
Joyce Elaine Phillips, Daniel T. Schopp, Beveryly Brede d/b/a
Custom Carpet, and Joseph Gulash, individually and on behalf of
others similarly situated (together, "Plaintiffs"). (Doc. 10.) On
October 26, 1999, Plaintiffs commenced this action in Madison
County Circuit Court. (Doc. 1, Ex. A.) On July 15, 2005,
Defendant Ford Motor Company ("Ford") removed the case. (Doc. 1.)
Plaintiffs filed their Motion to Remand on August 4, 2005. (Doc.
10.) Defendant responds in opposition. (Doc. 25.)
II. Background As noted above, Plaintiffs first brought their action on
October 26, 1999. (Doc. 1, Ex. A.) In their initial complaint,
Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant committed "common law and
consumer" fraud by using a defective vehicle-painting process on
its model-year 1988-1997 vehicles. (Doc. 1, Ex. A, ¶¶ 1-7.)
Plaintiffs amended their complaint on April 18, 2001, removing
model-year 1988, 1996, and 1997 vehicles from the scope of the
action. (Doc. 1, Ex. B.) On Septe mber 15, 2003, the Madison
County court certified two classes in this case, one for
common-law fraud and one for consumer fraud. (Doc. 1, Ex. E.)
These classes include past and present owners and lessees of
model-year 1989-1996 Ford vehicles. (Id.)
On April 1, 2005, Plaintiffs sought leave to file a Second
Amended Complaint, in which they proposed to add two additional
class members and revise their class allegations to comport with
the Madison County court's certification order. The Madison
County court granted this request over Defendant's opposition,
and Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint on June 16,
2005. (Doc. 2.) This Complaint added two named Plaintiffs,
Beverly Brede and Joseph Gulash ("Brede" and "Gulash"), and
expanded the scope of Plaintiffs' action to include Ford vehicles
manufactured in model-year 1996.
Defendant argues that because Plaintiffs amended their
complaint after the effective date of the Class Action Fairness
Act of 2005, Pub.L. No. 109-2, § 9, 119 Stat. 14 (amending
28 U.S.C. § 1332) ("CAFA" or the "Act"), CAFA applies to
Plaintiffs' action and jurisdiction is therefore proper in the
federal courts. (Docs. 1, 19.) Plaintiffs respond that neither their post-effective-date
complaint revision nor the addition of two new named Plaintiffs
"commences" their action for the purposes of CAFA, and,
therefore, remand is appropriate. (Docs. 10, 25.)
A defendant may remove a case only if a federal district court
would have original jurisdiction over the action. See
28 U.S.C. § 1441; Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386,
392 (1987). Statutes providing for removal are construed
narrowly, and doubts about removal are resolved in favor of
remand. Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th
Cir. 1993). The burden of establishing jurisdiction in the
federal courts falls on the party seeking removal. Doe v. Allied
Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993).
B. Class Action Fairness Act
CAFA was enacted by Congress on February 18, 2005 and applies
only to cases commencing thereafter. Class Action Fairness Act
of 2005, Pub.L. No. 109-2, § 9, 119 Stat. 14 (amending
28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)). A case "commences" for purposes of CAFA when the
plaintiff's complaint is filed in state court, not when it is
removed. Knudsen, 411 F.3d 805, 806 (7th Cir. 2005).
"Amendments to class definitions do not commence new suits."
Schorsch v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 417 F.3d 748, 751 (7th Cir.
2005) (further specifying that "the workaday changes routine in
class suits" do not initiate distinct claims). Defendant argues that because Plaintiffs' Second Amended
Complaint expands the number of affected products to include
model-year 1996 Ford vehicles, and because Plaintiff adds two new
named Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs have commenced a new case. The Court
finds that this reasoning runs counter to Schorsch. Plaintiffs'
changes are precisely the sort of "routine," "workaday"
amendments the Seventh Circuit envisioned.
As Defendant points out, Plaintiffs made two primary changes
when they filed their Second Amended Complaint on April 1, 2005.
First, they amended the definition of their class to comport
with the Madison County court's 2003 certification order. Under
Schorsch, this act clearly does not "commence" a new case for
CAFA purposes. See Schorsch, 417 F.3d at 751. Second,
Plaintiffs added two new named Plaintiffs, Brede and Gulash, to
their case. Defendant argues that this addition is not "routine,"
and that Brede (whose Ford vehicle was manufactured in 1996) "is
a new party who has brought brand new claims." (Doc. 19, p. 13 n.
5.) The Court finds these arguments unpersuasive. The facts and
circumstances underlying Gulash's claims are encompassed by each
of Plaintiffs' first two complaints (the first of which was filed
on October 26, 1999), while the facts and circumstances
underlying Brede's claims are encompassed both by Plaintiffs'
original complaint and by the Madison County court's 2003
certification order. Both sets of claims, moreover, arise of the
same general set of facts as Plaintiffs' other claims. IV. Conclusion
For these reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion to
Remand (Doc. 10) and REMANDS this case to the Madison County
Circuit Court. Defendant's ...