A lawsuit alleging personal and property damages stemming from oil pipe-cleaning operations was filed in Louisiana state court and removed under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”). The district court allowed jurisdictional discovery, and then ordered the case remanded to state court on the ground that the defendants had not met their burden of showing that at least one plaintiff satisfied the individual amount-in-controversy requirement for “mass actions” under CAFA. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed.

“In such a case, the court must decide by a preponderance of the evidence whether the relevant amount in controversy is met” under Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens. “A removing defendant can meet its burden of demonstrating the amount in controversy by showing that the amount is ‘facially apparent’ from the plaintiffs’ pleadings alone, or by submitting summary-judgment-type evidence. The required ‘demonstration concerns what the plaintiff is claiming (and thus the amount in controversy between the parties), not whether the plaintiff is likely to win or be awarded everything he seeks.’”

“Contrary to Plaintiffs’ argument, that the removing party bears the burden of proving the amount in controversy does not mean that the removing party cannot ask the court to make common-sense inferences about the amount put at stake by the injuries the plaintiffs claim.”

“Whether or not the amount in controversy is facially apparent from Plaintiffs’ complaint, Defendants submitted evidence that satisfies their burden of showing that at least one plaintiff’s claim exceeds $75,000. Defendants filed in opposition to the motion to remand Plaintiffs’ interrogatory responses — which constitute summary-judgment-type evidence.” Plaintiffs produced a chart detailing each individual plaintiff’s claimed damages, including one who claimed to have suffered from, among other things, emphysema and the wrongful death of her husband from lung cancer, and another who averred that he developed prostate cancer and a host of other ailments.

The court remanded to the district court for further consideration of whether the plaintiffs collectively met the $5 million aggregate amount in controversy.

Robertson v. Exxon Mobil Corp., No.15-30920, 2015 WL 9592499 (5th Cir. Dec. 31, 2015).