IN RE: BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTA FE RAILWAY CO. (May 19, 2010)
A number of residents of the town of Bagley, Wisconsin filed a class-action suit in state court against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF). They allege that BNSF's failure to maintain its railroad trestle resulted in a flood and damage to their property. BNSF removed the case to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). After Judge Crabb (W.D. Wis.) denied the class' motion to remand, the class moved to amend the complaint to withdraw all class allegations. The court granted the motion and remanded the case to state court. It analogized the situation to one in which class certification is denied and noted that district courts were divided on the impact of denial of class certification on CAFA jurisdiction. BNSF requested leave to appeal.
In their opinion, Judges Kanne, Wood, and Sykes granted the petition, vacated the remand order, and remanded. The Court noted the general rule that jurisdiction is determined at the time of removal. It then cited its recent decision in Cunningham Charter Corp. (see intheiropinion), which was decided after the district court's remand. In Cunningham Charter, the Court concluded that the denial of class certification did not require remand of a case removed under CAFA. The same considerations that lead to that conclusion should apply when class action status is amended away voluntarily.