The Central District of California district court recently weighed in on the limits of mass action jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). The matter began as various individual state court actions alleging that a cholesterol medication caused women taking the drug to suffer from Type II diabetes; after the state court granted a request for “coordination” of the cases, defendant pharmaceutical company removed the cases to federal court based on CAFA’s mass action provision. Plaintiffs moved to remand, arguing that the case did not satisfy the requirements for mass action jurisdiction – namely, claims of 100 or more persons for monetary relief, and proposed to be tried jointly for resolution of common questions.
First, the district court agreed with the defendant that the plaintiffs’ submissions constituted proposals for a joint trial under CAFA’s mass action provision. It analyzed the plaintiffs’ petitions which, taken together, evidenced a request and a need for coordination beyond merely pre-trial proceedings. Specifically, plaintiffs had requested coordination “for all purposes” and their various submissions all alleged the need to avoid duplicative judgments and rulings on liability issues. Thus, even though plaintiffs’ coordinated counsel indicated at a status conference the primary concern of consolidation was discovery, the court held the plaintiffs to the language of the petition indicating the request for coordination was not limited to pretrial matters.
Second, the court nonetheless found CAFA mass action jurisdiction inappropriate because there were not 100 plaintiffs proposing joint trial. Under Ninth Circuit law, the court highlighted, there is no strict rule specifying who exactly must make a proposal for joint trial sufficient to trigger mass action jurisdiction, except that a defendant’s proposal is insufficient and that implicit proposals may be sufficient so long as they are “voluntary and affirmative” or “intentional” acts. Here, only 65 plaintiffs had undertaken sufficiently voluntary and affirmative acts to propose a joint trial, either by being named in the amended coordination petition or by filing add-on petitions. Despite the possibility of hundreds or thousands of new plaintiffs adding on to the petition and plaintiffs’ counsels’ predictions they would do so, the court found those facts insufficient to satisfy the mass action provision’s 100+ plaintiff requirement. It held that the mere possibility of more coordination and future plaintiffs did not and could not constitute actual proposals for joint trials.
Accordingly, the court granted plaintiffs’ motion to remand the cases to state court, finding CAFA mass action jurisdiction lacking where there were fewer than 100 plaintiffs proposing joint trial.