A federal court in Florida has dismissed, without prejudice, a putative state- wide class action filed against Amy’s Kitchen, alleging that the company misleads consumers by identifying the sugar in its products as “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ). Reilly v. Amy’s Kitchen, Inc., No. 13-21525 (U.S. Dist. Ct. S.D. Fla., order entered March 7, 2014). The court agreed with the company that, because the court had previously dismissed claims as to products the representative plaintiff had not purchased, the plaintiff could not, at the time she filed the complaint, meet the Class Action Fairness Act’s (CAFA’s) jurisdictional threshold of $5 million. Information about the court’s earlier ruling appears in Issue 507 of this Update.
While jurisdictional facts are assessed at the time of removal, and post- removal events do not deprive courts of subject matter jurisdiction under CAFA, “if a claim of the required jurisdictional amount is made in good faith, the claim controls unless it appears ‘to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount,’” the court said. Citing cases from the Third and Sixth Circuits, the court distinguished between “subsequent events that change the amount in controversy and subsequent revelations that, in fact, the required amount was [never] in controversy at the commencement of the action.”
According to the company, Florida sales of the three products the plaintiff purchased during the class period totaled $1,045,993—well below the threshold—making the court’s earlier ruling a subsequent revelation. The court agreed, finding that the plaintiff had “improperly included claims related to the 57 products she did not purchase in calculating the amount in controversy” and thus “dismissal of this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is proper unless it appears to a ‘legal certainty’ that Plaintiff’s remaining claims meet CAFA’s $5 million jurisdictional minimum.” And, while the court agreed with the plaintiff that it could take injunctive relief into account in calculating the amount in controversy, the plaintiff failed to place a value on such recovery. The court also found that the plaintiff and class members could “simply refuse to purchase Defendant’s products which contain ECJ in the future and thus would receive no value from the proposed injunction.”
The court also agreed with the plaintiff that attorney’s fees and costs available under the state’s deceptive and unfair trade practices statute could be considered in calculating the amount in controversy. Still, because “she has once again failed to place any dollar amount on this figure,” the court determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute.