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Burcham v. Ford Motor Credit Co., LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 29, 2016

JEFFREY P. BURCHAM, Plaintiff
v.
FORD MOTOR CREDIT COMPANY LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          DAVID R. HERNDON JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         The defendant, Ford Motor Credit Company LLC (“Ford Credit”), removed this case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (“CAFA”). Presently before the Court is plaintiff Jeffrey P. Burcham's (“Burcham”) motion for remand to state court (Doc. 16). Ford Credit has responded in opposition (Doc. 22). Based on the record and the following, the motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         This is the second iteration of a putative class action brought by Burcham against Ford Credit. Burcham voluntarily dismissed the previous action (3:15-cv-00509-DRH) after Ford Credit filed its response opposing his motion to remand to state court. In the instant action, Burcham asserts the same claims and seeks certification of the same class as in the previously filed action. Specifically, Burcham asserts that [“Ford Credit] fail[s] to release security interests on vehicles within the time limits of 625 ILCS 5/3-205.” (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 1). Burcham seeks certification of the following class:

All citizens, who from five years preceding the filing of this case until final judgment, were not given a timely security interest release as required by 625 ILCS 5/3-205, within the time limits of 625 ILCS 5/3-205.

(Doc. 1-2 ¶ 14). Burcham demands $150 per class member, plus actual damages and attorneys' fees (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 12, “Wherefore” clause). Burcham also contends the putative class includes “less than thirty thousand people.” (Doc. 1-2 ¶ 15).

         The only jurisdictional matter in dispute is whether the amount in controversy is met. Ford Credit characterizes Burcham's cap on class membership as “arbitrary” (Doc. 1 ¶ 18). Burcham contends his cap of 30, 000 should be used to establish the amount in controversy because it is a good faith estimate premised on counsel's independent research. Specifically, Burcham's counsel indicates he conducted a search of the small claims dockets in 11 of Illinois's 102 counties. Counsel further states that his research revealed from 1991 to present day (in the 11 counties searched) Ford Credit was named as a small claims defendant in 10 cases.

         Ford credit has presented evidence, based on its business records, showing that more than 160, 000 accounts meet the following criteria:

The customer was an Illinois resident at the time of contracting for the purchase of a vehicle; the contract was entered into in Illinois; and the customer's most recent address is in Illinois, so the vehicle would be titled in Illinois; and
The account was paid off on or after July 13, 2011, i.e., within five years before the complaint was filed.

(Doc. 1 ¶ 15, Doc. 22-1). Based on the above and Burcham's demand of $150 per class member, Ford Credit asserts the amount in controversy is approximately $24, 000, 000.

         APPLICABLE AUTHORITY

         Under CAFA, federal courts have jurisdiction in diversity over class actions and putative class actions involving one hundred or more class members in which any member of the plaintiff class is a citizen of a state different from that of any defendant, and in which, after aggregating all claims of class members, an amount in excess of $5 million, exclusive of interest and costs, is in controversy. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(1)(B), (d)(2)(A), (d)(5)(B), (d)(6), (d)(8); Hart v. FedEx ...


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