Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Company, LLC v. Owens

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: December 15, 2014
  • Case #: 13-719
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ginsburg, J., delivered the Court's opinion, which Roberts, C.J., and Breyer, Alito, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, which Kennedy and Kagan, JJ., joined, and which Thomas, J., joined except as to the last sentence. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

A defendant's notice of removal only needs to include a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy is more than the jurisdictional threshold; it does not need to contain evidentiary submissions.

Respondent filed a putative class action lawsuit in Kansas state court. Respondent alleged Petitioner had damaged class members by underpaying on gas and oil leases, and sought a "fair and reasonable amount" for damages. Petitioner sought to remove the case to federal courts under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, which requires there to be at least 100 class members, minimal diversity between parties, and the amount in dispute to be at least five million dollars. Petitioner's notice of removal satisfied these three elements, and Petitioner alleged the amount in dispute was $8.2 million. Respondent moved to remand the case to state court, because Petitioner offered no proof that the amount in dispute was over five million dollars. The district court granted the remand to state court, interpreting Tenth Circuit precedent to require proof of amount in controversy. The Tenth Circuit denied review and the Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split.

The Court held that when seeking to remove a class action suit to federal court, a defendant must file a notice "containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal." This language tracks with Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court reasoned that it was an abuse of discretion for the Tenth Circuit to deny review, because that would make a misinterpretation of the law precedent in the Tenth Circuit, and leave Petitioner and similarly situated defendants in the future without a cause of action.

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