On December 15, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, 135 S. Ct. 547 (2014), that removal under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) does not require an evidentiary submission regarding the amount in controversy beyond the "short and plain" statement contained in the notice of removal.
In Dart, the plaintiff had filed a putative class action in state court alleging that the defendants (collectively, "Dart") had underpaid royalties owed to putative class members under oil and gas leases. Dart removed the case under CAFA, which gives federal courts jurisdiction over certain class actions if the class has over 100 members, there is minimal diversity, and the amount in controversy is greater than $5 million. Dart alleged that the three requirements were satisfied, asserting that the underpayments exceeded $8.2 million. Plaintiff, in turn, moved to remand the case to state court, alleging that the notice was insufficient because it did not include evidence proving that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million. Dart submitted a detailed declaration with its opposition to the remand motion, but Plaintiff argued that the submission was too late because it was not filed with the notice of removal. The District Court remanded the case, relying on Tenth Circuit precedent to hold that the notice itself must contain evidence of the amount in controversy. The Tenth Circuit denied Dart's petition for permission to appeal, and an evenly divided court denied Dart's petition for en banc review.
The Supreme Court vacated the Tenth Circuit's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. A majority of the Court reached the question on which it had granted certiorari: Whether a defendant seeking removal under CAFA must include evidence supporting federal jurisdiction in the notice of removal. The members of the Court who reached this issue held that "a defendant's notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold. Evidence establishing the amount is required . . . only when the plaintiff contests, or the court questions, the defendant's allegation." Id. at 554. In reaching this result, the Court explained that the language of the federal removal statute tracks Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)'s "short and plain" pleading requirement. Id. at 553 (internal quotations omitted). The Court also emphasized legislative history, illustrating Congress's intent to "simplify the pleading requirements for removal." Id. Importantly, the Court further clarified that -- contrary to the District Court's analysis -- "no antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking CAFA, which Congress enacted to facilitate adjudication of certain class actions in federal court." Id. at 554 (emphasis added). The four other members of the Court dissented on jurisdictional grounds, not disputing the merits of the Court's analysis.
Dart is a significant victory for defendants who seek to remove class action cases under CAFA not only because it clarifies the procedural point that proof of amount in controversy need not accompany a notice of removal, but because it squarely rejects any "anti-removal" presumption in CAFA cases.