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Toller v. Sagamore Insurance Co., 558 F. Supp. 2d 924 (E.D. Ark. 2008)

In this case, VBLH&C defeated the plaintiff’s efforts to plead her way around federal diversity jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA).  The plaintiff filed a class-action complaint in Arkansas state court alleging violations of state insurance law.  In her complaint, the plaintiff declared that the class’s claims would not exceed $4,999,999 ($5 million is the jurisdictional minimum under CAFA).  Nevertheless, VBLH&C removed the case.  When the plaintiff moved to remand, VBLH&C successfully made two crucial arguments.  First, VBLH&C successfully argued that, because the plaintiff had not pled a specific dollar amount under the jurisdictional minimum, federal jurisdiction was proper if the defendant established by a preponderance of the evidence – rather than to a legal certainty – that the amount-in-controversy requirement was met.  Second, VBLH&C successfully argued that, given CAFA’s elimination of the non-aggregation rule for calculating the amount in controversy – as well as CAFA’s stated goal of expanding federal diversity jurisdiction over class actions – the amount-in-controversy could be determined from the viewpoint of either the plaintiff or the defendant.  The court agreed on both points and denied remand.