United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
QUENTON SHELBY, Individually and on Behalf of Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff,
OAK RIVER INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR REMAND
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
putative class-action lawsuit arises from an attempt to
recover on a judgment entered in a separate class-action
lawsuit. This lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of
Jackson County, Missouri. Defendant Oak River Insurance
Company (“Oak River”) removed it to federal court
by invoking the Court's jurisdiction under the Class
Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1332, 1441, and 1446.
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc.
7). Finding that Oak River timely filed its notice of
removal, and that the Court should not exercise its
discretion to remand under CAFA's “interests of
justice” exception, the motion is DENIED.
dispute stems from a separate lawsuit (“the underlying
litigation”) brought by a used car dealer, Miller
Investment Group (“MIG”), seeking to recover
against Plaintiff Quenton Shelby for a deficiency on his
secured car loan. In response, Plaintiff filed a class-action
counter-claim alleging MIG violated the UCC and engaged in a
deceptive pattern in repossessing cars. MIG subsequently
entered into a class-wide settlement with Plaintiff in which
MIG assigned any claims it had against its insurers to
Plaintiff and the other class members.
River is an insurance company that issued garage liability
insurance policies to MIG. It is a citizen of Nebraska, with
its principal place of business in Omaha, Nebraska. Oak River
denied coverage in the underlying litigation, purportedly
because the underlying litigation concerned statutory
penalties arising out of financing activities and not any
activity associated with MIG's operation of a garage.
22, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit against Oak River in the
Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, seeking to recover
under Oak River's policies. Oak River contends it was
initially unclear whether the case was a class-action
lawsuit. It notes, for example, the Petition did not indicate
that Plaintiff was bringing the case on behalf of others, and
that the caption denoted Mr. Shelby as the only Plaintiff.
Pet. (Doc. 10-2). Oak River responded by asserting an
affirmative defense that the Petition failed as a matter of
law because it failed to join proper parties-that is, the
class members in the underlying litigation-to the action.
River subsequently engaged in discovery to confirm that the
case was not a class action. On February 8, 2017, Plaintiff
stated in a sworn interrogatory response that, “This is
not a class action.” Am. Answers and Objs. to
Def.'s First Interrogs. to Pl. at 3 (Doc. 10-4).
than thirty days later, on March 8, 2017, Plaintiff sought
leave to file an amended petition asserting that the case
was, in fact, a class action lawsuit. Among other things, the
proposed First Amended Petition stated, “Shelby is
asserting MIG's and the Class's claims . .
.” First Am. Pet. at ¶ 2 (Doc. 10-7) (emphasis
added). It also revised the prayer for relief clause in Count
II to state it was seeking damages for “Shelby and
the Class.” Id. at 7, ¶ B (emphasis
March 28, 2017, Oak River removed the case to federal court
by asserting CAFA jurisdiction, arguing the motion to amend
and proposed First Amended Petition were the first
sufficiently detailed and unequivocal statements from which
it could unambiguously ascertain that this was a class
now moves for remand, arguing Oak River's removal was
untimely, and even if it was timely, the Court should decline
to hear the dispute under CAFA's “interests of
statute governing removal provides in relevant part that
“[a]ny civil action brought in a State court . . . may
be removed by the defendant or the defendants” if the
federal court has original jurisdiction over it. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(a). The removing party bears the burden of
establishing federal jurisdiction. Bell v. Hershey
Co., 557 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir. 2009). All doubts about
removal are resolved in favor of remand. Cent. Iowa Power
Co-op. v. Midwest Indep. Transmission Sys. Operator,
Inc., 561 F.3d 904, 912 (8th Cir. 2009).
establish CAFA jurisdiction, the removing party must show
that the aggregate amount in controversy in the class action
exceeds $5, 000, 000 and “there is minimal (as opposed
to complete) diversity among the parties, i.e., any class
member and any defendant are citizens of different states;
and there are at least 100 members in the class.”
Westerfeld v. Indep. Processing LLC, 621 F.3d 819,
822 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)).
Generally speaking, a defendant has thirty days to invoke
CAFA jurisdiction from the time the complaint is filed or the
defendant receives “an amended pleading, motion, order,
or other paper” from which it may first be ascertained
that the case has become removable. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b).
the removing party establishes CAFA jurisdiction, the burden
shifts to the party seeking remand to establish that one of
CAFA's three jurisdictional exceptions applies.
Westerfeld, 621 F.3d at ...