Curbing voluntary dismissals as an improper forum-shopping measure
This putative class rep really did not want to be in federal court.
First, he attempted to avoid CAFA removal by stipulating that the putative class would seek less than $5 million. Defendants filed a notice of removal, and ultimately prevailed (which we wrote about here).
Months later, the Supreme Court unanimously held that such stipulations cannot bind putative class members and therefore cannot be used to defeat CAFA jurisdiction (which we discussed here). Standard Fire Ins. Co. v. Knowles, 133 S.Ct. 1345, 1348 (2013).
Not wanting to be stuck in federal court, plaintiff got creative and cited Knowles as the basis for a motion to voluntarily dismiss his case and re-file in state court, arguing that “the reason for this dismissal is to re-file in state court a petition that complies with the dictates of Standard Fire and Casualty Company v. Knowles, which is not to rely on a stipulation when pleading jurisdictional amounts.” Plaintiff’s Suggestions in Support of Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice (Dkt. 15).
Judge Gaitan denied plaintiff’s motion as a blatant and improper forum-shopping measure, stating:
[I]t is obvious that plaintiff’s intention in requesting voluntary dismissal is to avoid federal court, which is improper forum shopping under Eighth Circuit precedent.
Wingo v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., No. 13-3097, 2013 WL 4041477 (W.D. Mo. Aug. 8, 2013) (citing Thatcher v. Hanover Ins. Group, Inc., 659 F.3d 1212 (8th Cir. 2011) (finding that the district court abused its discretion in granting plaintiff’s motion for voluntary dismissal in a class action that had been removed under CAFA, without first considering whether the motion for voluntary dismissal was an improper forum-shopping measure).
If Wingo is any indication, the Supreme Court’s decision in Knowles and the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Thatcher will make it increasingly difficult for future class action plaintiffs in the Eighth Circuit to plead around CAFA jurisdiction.