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William B. Eadie | Jan 2, 2014

What You Need to Know About Federal Jurisdiction in MMWA Warranty Class Actions

Categories: Class Action, Business Litigation

The Sixth Circuit recently adopted the prevailing federal policy of finding that federal courts have jurisdiction over warranty class actions under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act even when the plaintiffs do not meet the 100-named-plaintiffs rule under the MMWA. The Sixth Circuit adopted the reasoning of the northern District of Ohio in finding that the Class Action Fairness Act, or CAFA, supersedes the MMWA jurisdictional requirements. The decision is Kuns v. Ford Motor Co., 6th Cir. No. 13-3364, 2013 WL 6068459 (Nov. 19, 2013).

The Six Circuit explained:

The district court held that it had jurisdiction over Kuns's claims under the CAFA and not under the MMWA. To bring a class action pursuant to the MMWA, a complaint must list at least one hundred named plaintiffs. See15 U.S.C. § 2310(d)(3). Kuns is the only named plaintiff in her case. However, the court reasoned that the CAFA—the more recent of the two statutes—“can render a district court a ‘court of competent jurisdiction’ and permit it to retain jurisdiction where the CAFA requisites are met but the MMWA requisites are not.” Kuns, 926 F.Supp.2d at 980.

As the district court acknowledged, our circuit has not yet addressed the jurisdictional interplay of the CAFA and the MMWA. Nor, apparently, have most of our sister circuits. But see Birdsong v. Apple, Inc., 590 F.3d 955, 957 n. 1 (9th Cir.2009) (finding that district court had jurisdiction pursuant to the CAFA over purported class action alleging violations of the MMWA and state law). However, district courts have, as a general rule, held that the CAFA effectively supercedes the MMWA's more stringent jurisdictional requirements. See, e.g., Keegan v. Am. Honda Motor Corp., 838 F.Supp.2d 929, 954–55 (C.D.Cal.2012) (citing several other cases); Stella v. LVMH Perfumes & Cosmetics USA, Inc., 564 F.Supp.2d 833, 837–38 (N.D.Ill.2008); McCalley v. Samsung Elecs Am., Inc., No. 07–2141(JAG), 2008 WL 878402, at *5 (D.N.J. Mar.31, 2008); Chavis v. Fidelity Warranty Servs., Inc., 415 F.Supp.2d 620, 626 (D.S.C.2006) (“CAFA was passed with the clear intention of expanding federal court jurisdiction over class actions” (internal quotation marks omitted)); see also S.Rep. No. 109–14, at 27 (2005), reprinted in 2005 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3, 27 (describing the CAFA as a “narrowly-tailored expansion of federal diversity jurisdiction to ensure that class actions that are truly interstate in character can be heard in federal court”). We agree that the district court had jurisdiction notwithstanding the MMWA's jurisdictional limitations.

What do you think about whether CAFA jurisdiction should supercede MMWA's more-restrictive 100-named-plaintiff rule? Do you even agree with the district courts that the MMWA provides for 100 named plaintiffs (versus only a class with at minimum 100 plaintiffs)? Please comment below, through which you can also share.

Here's a copy of the opinion: Kuns v. Ford Motor Co., 6th Cir. No. 13-3364, 2013 WL 6068459 (Nov. 19, 2013)