United States District Court, District of Columbia
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY United States District Judge
Gloria Hackman filed suit against Defendant One Brands LLC,
producer of One Bars, in the Superior Court of the District
of Columbia (“Superior Court”), alleging that
Defendant violated the District of Columbia Consumer
Protection Procedures Act (“DCCPPA ”) by
misleading consumers about the amount of sugar in One Bars.
In short, Plaintiff's Complaint claims that One Bars
contain far more sugar than is reported on labels and in
advertising. Defendant removed the case to this Court,
invoking Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”)
jurisdiction and traditional diversity jurisdiction.
Plaintiff has moved to remand the case back to Superior
Court. Upon consideration of the pleadings,  the relevant
legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court
GRANTS Plaintiff's  Motion to Remand.
Court concludes that remand is required because the Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction. First, the Court lacks
class action jurisdiction under CAFA because this case is not
a class action. Second, the Court lacks traditional diversity
jurisdiction because, due to the non-aggregation principle,
Defendant has not demonstrated that $75, 000 or more is in
controversy in this case.
is a resident of the District of Columbia who is a nurse as
well as a public health and consumer watchdog. Compl., ECF
No. 1-1, ¶ 5. Plaintiff brought this suit in Superior
Court, alleging that Defendant misled consumers in the
District of Columbia when it sold them One Bars which are
improperly labeled and marketed as low in sugar. Id.
at ¶¶ 9-22. Based on these and other alleged
misrepresentations, Plaintiff asserts a cause of action under
the DCCPPA, D.C. Code § 28-3905(k)(1)(B). Id.
at ¶¶ 28-34. As relief, Plaintiff seeks on behalf
of the general public “[a]n injunction against
Defendant, including that Defendant be barred from selling
OneBars in the District of Columbia until the front of OneBar
labels give truthful information about the sugar content of
the bars.” Id. at ¶ 34a. She also seeks
attorneys' fees and costs and punitive damages.
Id. at ¶ 34. Finally, Plaintiff seeks statutory
damages on her own behalf. Id. at ¶ 33. She
does not make a class action claim.
this Complaint was filed in Superior Court, Defendant removed
it to this Court, invoking the Court's CAFA jurisdiction
and traditional diversity jurisdiction. See
generally Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. Defendant then
filed in this Court a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint on
grounds of preemption, standing, and failure to state a claim
for which relief may be granted. See generally
Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 5. Plaintiff responded to
that Motion, and later filed a Motion to Remand for Lack of
Subject Matter Jurisdiction, which is currently pending
before the Court.
this Court ultimately concludes that it does not have subject
matter jurisdiction, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's 
Motion to Remand and ORDERS this case remanded to Superior
Court. Lacking jurisdiction over this case, the Court also
ORDERS that Defendant's  Motion to Dismiss be HELD IN
ABEYANCE, to be resolved on remand.
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
(“D.C. Circuit”) has explained that “[w]hen
it appears that a district court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over a case that has been removed from a state
court, the district court must remand the
case.” Republic of Venezuela v. Philip Morris
Inc., 287 F.3d 192, 196 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (emphasis
added). Because removal implicates significant federalism
concerns, a court must “strictly construe[ ] the scope
of its removal jurisdiction.” Downey v. Ambassador
Devel., LLC, 568 F.Supp.2d 28, 30 (D.D.C. 2008) (citing
Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S.
100, 107-09 (1941)). “‘[I]f federal jurisdiction
is doubtful, a remand to state court is
necessary.'” Id. (quoting Dixon v.
Coburg Dairy, Inc., 369 F.3d 811, 815-16 (4th Cir.
2004)); see also Johnson-Brown v. 2200 M St. LLC,
257 F.Supp.2d 175, 177 (D.D.C. 2003) (“Where the need
to remand is not self-evident, the court must resolve any
ambiguities concerning the propriety of removal in favor of
remand.”). “The party seeking removal of an
action bears the burden of proving that jurisdiction exists
in federal court.” Downey, 568 F.Supp.2d at
30. If the party “cannot meet this burden, the court
must remand the case.” Johnson-Brown, 257
F.Supp.2d at 177.
notice of removal, Defendant presents two grounds as to why
this Court has subject matter jurisdiction. First, Defendant
argues that removal is proper because this Court has
diversity jurisdiction pursuant to CAFA. 28 U.S.C. §
1332(d). Second, Defendant argues that removal is proper
because this Court has traditional diversity jurisdiction. 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). For the reasons explained below, the
Court concludes that neither of the grounds presented by
Defendant provide this Court with subject matter jurisdiction
over the case.
Defendant argues that this Court has jurisdiction over the
case pursuant to CAFA. Under CAFA, a district court has
subject matter jurisdiction over “any civil action in
which the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of
$5, 000, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is a class
action in which … any member of a class of plaintiffs
is a citizen of a State different from any defendant.”
28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(A). Additionally, the proposed
class must consist of 100 persons or more. 28 U.S.C. §
1332(d)(5)(B). Defendant contends that all of the
requirements under CAFA are met in this lawsuit.
argues that the amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000,
the minimum amount required by CAFA. Defendant has sold over
12, 000 individual bars to consumers in the District of
Columbia who are similarly situated to Plaintiff. Decl. of
David Ziegert, ECF No. 1-2, ¶ 5. And, the DCCPPA imposes
statutory damages of $1, 500 per violation. D.C. Code §
28-3905(k)(2)(A). Accordingly, the amount in controversy is
as high as $18, 000, 000, which exceeds the minimum amount of
controversy of $5, 000, 000.
also contends that this case meets CAFA's requirement for
minimum diversity. Defendant is incorporated in Delaware and
has its principal place of business in North Carolina. Decl.
of David Ziegert, ECF No. 1-2, ¶ 1. And, Plaintiff is a
citizen of the District of Columbia. Compl., ECF No. 1-1,
¶ 5. Accordingly, the diversity requirement is met.
Defendant claims that the potential class consists of more
than 100 persons. Defendant has submitted a Declaration from
its Chief Operating Officer declaring that more than 100
people in the District of Columbia purchased One Bars in the
three-year period prior to this lawsuit. Decl. of David
Ziegert, ECF No. 1-2, ¶ 6.
all three CAFA requirements appear to be met. And, Plaintiff
does not contest that the requirements of CAFA are met in
this lawsuit. Instead, Plaintiff contends that CAFA 's
requirements are irrelevant because Plaintiff's Complaint
pleads no class action which would trigger an analysis of
jurisdiction under CAFA. Instead, Plaintiff brings suit under
the DCCPPA, which is “a separate and distinct
procedural vehicle from a class action.” Animal
Legal Def. Fund v. Hormel Foods Corp., 249 F.Supp.3d 53,
64 (D.D.C. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because
Plaintiff's lawsuit is not a class action, Plaintiff
argues that CAFA cannot confer jurisdiction on this Court.
The Court agrees.
permits removal of class actions to federal court. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(d)(2). Under CAFA, a “class action”
is “any civil action filed under rule 23 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure or similar State statute or rule of
judicial procedure authorizing an action to be brought by 1
or more representative persons as a class action.” 28
U.S.C. § 1332(d)(1)(B). Accordingly, the question in
analyzing CAFA jurisdiction becomes “whether an action
under [the DCCPPA] constitutes ‘a suit filed under a
state statute or rule of judicial procedure similar to Rule
23 that authorizes a class action.'” Nat'l
Consumers League v. Flowers Bakeries, LLC, 36 F.Supp.3d
26, 36 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting Baumann v. Chase Inv.
Servs. Corp., 747 F.3d 1117, 1120 (9th Cir. 2014)).
“Absent the ‘hallmarks of Rule 23 class actions;
namely, adequacy of representation, numerosity, commonality,