An Arkansas District Court Holds That a Stipulation as to the Amount in Controversy Contained in the Body of the Complaint is Sufficient to Defeat CAFA Jurisdiction
In Oliver v. Mona Vie, Inc., No. 4:11-cv-04125, 2012 U.S. Dist. Lexis 75249 (W.D. Ark. May 31, 2012), the plaintiff filed a class action complaint in state court asserting that the defendants had used misleading advertising to sell juice products.
The complaint contained a stipulation that plaintiff was seeking less than $75,000 per class member and the class was seeking less than $5 million in total damages. The defendants removed the case to federal court pursuant to CAFA, stating that the plaintiff’s stipulation was insufficient because it was contained in the complaint and not in a separate stipulation. The court remanded the case, holding that the stipulation in the complaint was the equivalent of a separately filed stipulation and binding upon the plaintiff under state statute. Because the plaintiff was bound to the stipulated damages amount, and judicial estoppel prevented the plaintiff from attempting to thwart the damage limitation post-remand, the complaint sufficiently established that the statutory minimum required under CAFA had not been met. The court observed, however, that in states where pleading standards preclude the pleading of damages with specificity, the same result might not occur.