In Marple v. T-Mobile Central LLC, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that class member claims cannot be aggregated across separate lawsuits for purposes of meeting the $5,000,000 jurisdictional amount in controversy under the Class Action Fairness Act. T-Mobile had filed ten separate lawsuits against Missouri municipalities for refunds of taxes paid in ten specific time periods. Subsequently, Marple and another consumer brought ten corresponding class action lawsuits in state court against T-Mobile for passing those taxes on to its consumers. T-Mobile removed the class actions to federal court, contending that the combined amounts in controversy across Marple’s ten actions satisfied the $5 million requirement. The U.S. district court disagreed and remanded the cases back to state court.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed, explaining that CAFA is silent on whether class claims may be aggregated across class actions, but that given “CAFA’s detailed instructions” for aggregating claims within a single class action, “Congress would have similarly outlined how courts should aggregate between class actions had it intended for courts to do so.” The court distinguished a 2008 opinion from the Sixth Circuit, Freeman v. Blue Ridge Paper Products, Inc., which aggregated amounts across several class actions that had been filed separately for the admitted purpose of circumventing CAFA. In contrast with Freeman, the Eighth Circuit explained, Marple’s separate class actions were “driven by T-Mobile’s own litigation decisions,” and there was no “indication that Marple artificially divided the lawsuit to avoid the CAFA.”