The U.S. Supreme Court has given appellate attorneys for Home Depot reason to invoke the national big box store’s slogan, “Let’s Do This.”
The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear Home Depot USA v. Jackson, which hinges on the U,S, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit’ interpretation of the Class Action Fairness Act. CAFA allows defendants to remove actions from the state to federal court if certain jurisdictional requirements are met.
The case has implications for corporations of all sizes and their legal departments, which could be facing class action-sized headaches if Atlanta-based Home Depot falters.
Home Depot argued that third-party counter-defendants should be entitled to remove the claims against them to federal court under CAFA. Home Depot is such a defendant in the case at hand, which began when Citibank filed a debt collection action against George Jackson in a North Carolina state court. Jackson filed counterclaims against Home Depot and another business.
In urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, Home Depot and its attorneys asserted that the Fourth Circuit’s “countertextual interpretation of CAFA’s removal provision has created a roadmap for circumventing CAFA’s goal of ensuring that defendants in qualifying class actions may defend themselves in federal court.”
Home Depot has amici backing from the Retail Litigation Center Inc., U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Product Liability Advisory Council Inc. and DRI, an organization of defense attorneys and in-house counsel.
DRI asserted in its brief that the Supreme Court needed to step in and “prevent forum-shopping plaintiffs lawyers from evading CAFA removal and forcing national defendants to litigate or settle class action claims in plaintiff-friendly state courts.”
In urging the Supreme Court not to hear the case, Jackson contended in his brief that Home Depot’s argument was “exaggerated and unconvincing,” adding that the company and the amici “should take their complaint to Congress.”
“That Congress has done nothing in the years since the judicial consensus on this issue emerged underscores that Home Depot’s assertion that the courts of appeals have flouted congressional intent is incorrect,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s counsel of record, Brian Warwick of Varnell & Warwick in Lady Lake, Florida, wrote in an email that Home Depot and its supporters were using the case as a “vehicle to achieve a broader and illegitimate end—to upend the intent of Congress and Supreme Court precedent and force all class action litigation into federal court, even for small classes only involving local issues.”
Home Depot’s attorney, Sarah Harrington of Goldstein & Russell in Bethesda, Maryland, declined an interview request.
Another case to watch:
The Supreme Court also added to its docket Rimini Street v. Oracle USA, which pits two software companies against one another in a big money fight that centers on a circuit split over cost-shifting in copyright cases.
Rimini Street Inc., which is facing more than $20 million in costs and is accused of $35.6 million in copyright infringement damages, argued this case is a “pristine vehicle to resolve a circuit split over whether the Copyright Act authorizes courts to award nontaxable costs.”
Oracle didn’t want the case to get this far. It had contended in opposition to cert that the case is the “poster child for why Congress gave courts ‘discretion’ to award prevailing parties in copyright cases their ‘full costs.’”