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Kaufman v. Lumber Liquidators, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 22, 2014

JERROD KAUFMAN & RACHEL KAUFMAN, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
LUMBER LIQUIDATORS, INC., et al., Defendants.

OPINION

ANNE E. THOMPSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the Motion of Plaintiffs Jarrod Kaufman and Rachel Kaufman (collectively "Plaintiffs") to Remand[1] the case to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County. (Doc. No. 6). Defendants Lumber Liquidators, Inc. ("LLI") and Robert M. Lynch (collectively "Defendants") oppose. (Doc. No. 13). The Court has decided this Motion based on the parties' written submissions and without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b). For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiffs' Motion for Remand will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs brought this action on behalf of themselves and the putative class against Defendants in the Superior Court of New Jersey on September 4, 2014, alleging that documents used by Defendants in the sale and delivery of wood flooring products violated New Jersey's Delivery of Household Furnishing Regulations ("Furniture Delivery Regulations"), N.J.A.C. 13:45A-5.1 and New Jersey's Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act ("TCCWNA"), N.J.S.A. 56:12-14.

On August 29, 2012 and October 20, 2012, Plaintiffs purchased hardwood flooring for home delivery from Defendants. (Doc. No. 1, Ex. A, at ¶¶ 18-23). According to Plaintiffs, the invoices they received from Defendants failed to include language regarding delivery dates and seller's obligations in the case of delayed delivery as required by the Furniture Delivery Regulations. ( Id. at ¶¶ 24-30). Plaintiffs assert that Defendants use the same form invoice for sales of household furniture or furnishings for delivery in New Jersey, that they received this form invoice as part of their purchases, and that the form invoice failed to comply with the Furniture Delivery Regulations. ( Id. at ¶¶ 31-33).

Plaintiffs further assert that because Defendants violated the Furniture Delivery Regulations, they also violated the TCCWNA. ( Id. at ¶¶ 49-67). The TCCWNA imposes liability on sellers who, in the course of their business, enter into a consumer contract that "violates any clearly established legal right of a consumer... established by State or Federal law...." N.J.S.A. 56:12-15. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants violated the TCCWNA because the Defendants' invoices constituted consumer contracts and these contracts violated clearly established consumer rights set forth in the Furniture Delivery Regulations. (Doc. No. 1, Ex. A, at ¶¶ 49-67).

Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit on behalf of a putative class, defined as follows:

All persons who purchased household furniture or furnishings for future delivery from any Lumber Liquidators location to be delivered to an address in New Jersey at any time on or after the day six years prior to the date on which this complaint is filed [September 4, 2014] using an invoice the same or similar to the invoices used in the transactions with Plaintiffs on August 29, 2012 and October 20, 2012.

( Id. at ¶ 35). Therefore, the alleged class period is September 4, 2008 through September 4, 2014.

On October 17, 2014, Defendants removed the case to this Court under the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Doc. No. 1). CAFA grants federal courts jurisdiction over class actions in which (1) the amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000 in the aggregate, (2) any class member and any defendant are citizens of different states, and (3) there are at least 100 members in the putative class. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2), (d)(5)(B). Plaintiffs are citizens of New Jersey while Defendant LLI is incorporated in Delaware, with its principal place of business in Virginia. (Doc. No. 1, Ex. A, at ¶¶ 16, 17). Defendant Lynch is a citizen of Virginia. ( Id. at ¶ 18). There seems to be no dispute that there are at least 100 members in the putative class. Only the amount in controversy is contested by the parties.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case must be remanded to state court. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The parties agree that if the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case, it is pursuant to CAFA. The party asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of showing that the case is properly before the federal court. Frederico v. Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 193 (3d Cir. 2007). If the facts forming the basis for jurisdiction are disputed by the parties, the party alleging federal jurisdiction has the burden to justify his allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. See id. at 194-97; Judon v. Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of America, ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 6997485, at *6 (3d Cir. Dec. 12, 2014); Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, 574 U.S. ___, slip op., at 6 (Dec. 15, 2014) (requiring both parties to submit proof where jurisdiction is contested, and the court decides, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has been satisfied). Where the underlying jurisdictional facts are not contested and plaintiffs' complaint does not expressly limit the amount in controversy below CAFA's $5 million threshold, the case must be remanded to state court if it appears to a "legal certainty" that plaintiffs cannot meet CAFA's amount in controversy requirement. See Frederico, 507 F.3d at 197; Judon, 2014 WL 6997485, at *3-6; Hoffman v. Nutraceutical Corp., 563 Fed.App'x 183, 185 (3d Cir. 2014). The district court may rely on defendant's notice of removal in assessing whether the minimum jurisdictional amount has been met in a CAFA case removed to a district court. See Frederico, 507 F.3d at 197-98. The amount in controversy is determined from a "reasonable reading of the value of the rights being litigated" based on the pleadings on the date of removal. Angus ...


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