Thursday, June 23, 2005

Wahoo! Allapattah came down the right way!

According to the invaluable SCOTUS Blog, not to be confused with a blog about John Duns Scotus, q.v., the consolidated cases of Exxon Corp. v. Allapattah Services (04-70) and Ortega v. Star-Kist Foods (04-79) were just decided:

If one member of a class satisfies the amount in controversy requirement (currently in excess of $75,000 for diversity jurisdiction) then the class is deemed to satisfy the amount, even if the claims of others are for less, in some cases far less, than $75,000.

This result is plainly right.

If you have, for example, fourteen people with injuries of $74,000, they might not be able to get into federal court on diversity unless they can aggregate the claims.

If, in contrast, you have ninety thousand people with claims that vary from $10 on up to $150,000, it doesn't make any sense to be able to get justice for those with claims from $75,000.01 on up in a class action, while excluding those with claims just under $75,000. Class actions, when permitted by law, are supposed to ease the burden on plaintiffs and defendants alike by allowing claims to be decided together, in a single trial or series of trials, rather than by depending on piecemeal and widely dispersed actions. There's potentially no federal forum for a person with an injury of $100, or $60,000, unless you can get in together with someone who was injured more than you were.

I'm willing to hear dissenting views. Overlawyered and class action defense counsel, I'm looking at you.


At 10:41 AM, June 27, 2005, Blogger Eh Nonymous said...

Ted Frank writes in relevant part:

"...class action defense counsel as a whole are thrilled with this decision. Check the amicus briefs. It's usually defendants who remove cases to federal court, and plaintiffs who tried to use the narrower interpretation of Sec. 1367 to keep class actions in state court by arguing that not every class member met the jurisdictional minimum. [...] This was just a weird set of facts where Exxon found it advantageous
after-the-fact to take the ex-ante pro-plaintiff position on the off
chance that it would result in a ridiculous verdict being thrown out, since the Supreme Court wasn't going to take cert on any of the other issues worthy of appeal.

The question is moot with respect to class actions, however, because of the Class Action Fairness Act, which changes the jurisdictional
minimums on a going-forward basis.

I'll post my response if time permits. Thanks, Ted.

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