Subject-matter jurisdiction in class actions in federal court

The law regarding subject-matter jurisdiction (SMJ) for class actions is complex. The table below summarizes how to analyze the basics of SMJ under the normal diversity statute (1332(a)) without supplemental jurisdiction, with supplemental jurisdiction (after Exxon), and under the Class Action Fairness Act (1332(d)). The analyses below assume that the class action asserts a state-law claim rather than a federal cause of action. Page references are to the Second Edition of Glannon’s casebook.



Class action under normal diversity 1332(a), without consideration of 1367 supplemental jurisdiction Class action under 1332(a), as affected by 1367 supplemental jurisdiction & Exxon Mobil Class action under CAFA 1332(d)
Amount in controversy AIC must be > $75K for every class member, no aggregation permitted.

[Zahn p. 717]

So long as a class representative exceeds the amount in controversy, supplemental jurisdiction can exist over others (such as class members) whose amounts are below the AIC.

See Exxon Mobil v. Allapattah (“We hold that, where the other elements of jurisdiction are present and at least one named plaintiff in the action satisfies the amount-in-controversy requirement, §1367 does authorize supplemental jurisdiction over the claims of other plaintiffs in the same Article III case or controversy, even if those claims are for less than the jurisdictional amount specified in the statute setting forth the requirements for diversity jurisdiction.”)

Aggregated AIC of > $5,000,000 is sufficient.

Note, however, that the court has in some cases, discretion to decline the assertion of CAFA jurisdiction, and in other cases, is required to decline jurisdiction.

Diversity Class representatives must be completely diverse from opposing parties.

But no need to consider the citizenship of class members.

[Ben-Hur p. 717]

Apparently the same as under Ben-Hur (though one might wonder about “contamination” theory) Minimal diversity between plaintiff class members and opposing parties is sufficient.

Again note, however, the possibility of the court declining to exercise jurisdiction.

Posted Feb. 21, 2016