The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nanette K. Laughrey United States District Judge Jefferson City, Missouri
Before the Court is the Motion to Remand [Doc. # 13] filed by Plaintiffs Susan Marple and Stephanie Worrell and the members of each putative class in each action set forth in the caption above. For the following reasons, the Court grants the order and remands these actions to the Jackson County, Missouri Circuit Court.
The Defendant in these ten consolidated lawsuits, T-Mobile Central, LLC ("T-Mobile") filed ten petitions in Missouri state courts seeking judicial declarations requiring municipalities to refund to T-Mobile certain tax payments made by T-Mobile under protest. For each of those ten lawsuits filed by T-Mobile, Plaintiffs filed corresponding class actions in state court. In each of those corresponding class actions, Plaintiffs' legal theory was the same. Plaintiffs have alleged unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and a violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. [Doc. # 1, Ex. 2.] The thrust of Plaintiffs' legal theory is that T-Mobile billed its customers for a "City License Tax" without disclosing that it was not required to pass on such tax to its customers or that it sought to recoup the tax money through its ten lawsuits because it considered the municipal taxes illegal.
Defendant T-Mobile removed these actions to federal court on October 1, 2010. [Doc. # 1.] On October 25, acting sua sponte, this Court ordered that the ten above-captioned actions were "consolidated for pretrial proceedings into the lowest case number 10-00954-CV-C-NKL." [Doc. # 11.] Plaintiffs filed this Motion to Remand on November 22, 2010. [Doc. # 13.]
In their Motion to Remand, Plaintiffs argue that the damages sought in the ten class actions are below the $5,000,000 threshold set by the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"). [Doc. # 13 at 1-2 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(6).] For example, Plaintiffs' petition in the lowest case number 10-00954-CV-C-NKL seeks no more than the $962, 273.71 which it claims is the amount sought by T-Mobile in its suit 1016CV21191. [Doc. # 1, Ex. 2 at 3.]
Defendant T-Mobile does not contest Plaintiffs' assertions regarding the amount at issue in the ten class actions. Instead, T-Mobile calls on the Court to aggregate the amounts across the ten class actions, which it argues should be construed here as a single class action. To support this contention, T-Mobile relies on a teleological interpretation of the CAFA and a Sixth Circuit case, Freeman v. Blue Ridge Paper Prods., Inc., 551 F.3d 405 (6th Cir. 2008).
T-Mobile begins its argument by citing the legislative history to analyze the CAFA's purposes, though it does not address the statutory text until page 10 of its brief. [Doc. # 11 at 4, 10.] The Court must begin its analysis by considering the text of the statute. "It is well established that 'when the statute's language is plain, the sole function of the courts -- at least where the disposition required by the text is not absurd -- is to enforce it according to its terms.'" Lamie v. U.S. Trustee, 540 U.S. 526, 534 (2004) (quoting Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co. v. Union Planters Bank, N.A., 530 U.S. 1, 6 (2000)).This "plain meaning" or "plain language" rule of statutory interpretation "requires examining the text of the statute as a whole by considering its context, 'object, and policy.'" Harmon Indus., Inc. v. Browner, 191 F.3d 894, 899 (8th Cir. 1999) (quoting Pelofsky v. Wallace, 102 F.3d 350, 353 (8th Cir. 1996)). "The main effect of the [plain meaning] rule in modern statutory interpretation . . . is that it bars resort to otherwise admissible extrinsic aids, evidencing the meaning or purpose of the enacting legislators, in cases which, in the judgment of the deciding court, fall within the scope of its operation." 2A Norman J. Singer & J.D. Shambie Singer, Sutherland Statutory Construction § 48A:15 (7th ed. 2007). In other words, only upon a finding of ambiguity is the Court permitted to analyze extrinsic evidence of Congressional intent, such as the legislative history. Id.
A. The Text of the Class Action Fairness Act
The Court lacks jurisdiction over this case if Plaintiffs' claims have not met the minimal diversity of citizenship requirements established by the CAFA amendments to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The CAFA provides, in relevant part:
The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action in which the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5,000,000, exclusive of interest and costs . . . .
In any class action, the claims of the individual class members shall be aggregated to determine whether the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5,000,000, exclusive of interest and costs.
28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2), (d)(6). The CAFA defines the term "class action" as "any civil action filed under rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or similar State statute or rule of judicial procedure authorizing an action to be brought by 1 or more ...