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Roberts v. Mars Petcare US, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 2, 2017

Randy Roberts, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Mars Petcare US, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: October 31, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville. No. 3:17-cv-00043-Pamela Lynn Reeves, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Charles Barrett, NEAL & HARWELL, PLC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Xiao Wang, WILLIAMS & CONNOLLY LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Charles Barrett, NEAL & HARWELL, PLC, Nashville, Tennessee, Gordon Ball, GORDON BALL, PLLC, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Xiao Wang, WILLIAMS & CONNOLLY LLP, Washington, D.C., R. Dale Grimes, Russell E. Stair, BASS, BERRY & SIMS PLC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: GIBBONS, SUTTON, and THAPAR, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SUTTON, Circuit Judge.

          The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 extends federal court jurisdiction to class actions on behalf of 100 or more people and in request of $5 million or more in damages so long as "any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant." 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d)(2)(A), (d)(5), (d)(6). At issue is the quoted phrase. Randy Roberts filed this class action on behalf of Tennessee citizens in Tennessee state court against Mars Petcare US, a citizen of Tennessee and Delaware. Mars removed the case to federal court, invoking its Delaware citizenship and claiming its Tennessee citizenship did not matter. Because § 1332(d)(2)(A) refers to all of a defendant's citizenships, not the alternative that suits it, Mars cannot rely on its State of incorporation (Delaware) and ignore its principal place of business (Tennessee) to create diversity under the Act. We reverse the district court's denial of the plaintiff's motion to remand the case to state court.

         On January 11, 2017, Roberts filed this class action against Mars in a Tennessee state court. He alleged that Mars conspired with other pet food manufacturers, veterinarian chains, and a retailer to employ a "prescription-authorization requirement" to sell pet food at above market prices in violation of the Tennessee Trade Practices Act.

         Roberts is a citizen of Tennessee, and he filed this lawsuit on behalf of other Tennessee citizens. Mars is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Tennessee. On February 9, 2017, Mars removed the case to the Eastern District of Tennessee, invoking the court's diversity jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). Roberts filed a motion to remand, which the district court denied. We granted Roberts' petition for permission to appeal.

         The Class Action Fairness Act, often called CAFA, amended the diversity statute to extend the jurisdiction of federal courts from class actions between "citizens of different States" to those in which "any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant." 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a)(1), (d)(2)(A). Under § 1332(a)(1), the traditional grant of diversity jurisdiction, all plaintiffs must be citizens of States different from all defendants. See Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 267 (1806). But under CAFA, federal courts may hear class actions with minimal diversity, such that only one plaintiff and one defendant need be citizens of different States, so long as there are 100 or more class members and an aggregate amount in controversy of at least $5, 000, 000. 28 U.S.C. ยงยง ...


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