Class Action Fairness Act decision from the CA6

In a decision penned by circuit judge Jeffrey Sutton, Roberts v. Mars Petcare US, Inc., No. 17-6122 (6th Cir. Nov. 2, 2017), the Sixth Circuit has held that there's no federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act when a plaintiff class comprised of citizens of state A sue a defendant who is a citizen of both state A and state B. (The decision was issued a startling 2 days after oral argument!)

Judge Sutton's opinion, joining the views of other circuits, is an interesting mix of text, context, purpose, and history, with a tiny splash of constitutional avoidance. The opinion's first paragraph contains the bottom line:

The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 extends federal court jurisdiction to class actions on behalf of 100 or more people and in request of $5 million or more in damages so long as “any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant.” 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d)(2)(A), (d)(5), (d)(6). At issue is the quoted phrase. Randy Roberts filed this class action on behalf of Tennessee citizens in Tennessee state court against Mars Petcare US, a citizen of Tennessee and Delaware. Mars removed the case to federal court, invoking its Delaware citizenship and claiming its Tennessee citizenship did not matter. Because § 1332(d)(2)(A) refers to all of a defendant’s citizenships, not the alternative that suits it, Mars cannot rely on its State of incorporation (Delaware) and ignore its principal place of business (Tennessee) to create diversity under the Act. We reverse the district court’s denial of the plaintiff’s motion to remand the case to state court.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *