DART CHEROKEE BASIN OPERATING COMPANY LLC v. BRANDON W. OWENS
On October 30, 2012, Brandon W. Owens filed a class action petition in state court that alleged that Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Company and Cherokee Basin Pipeline underpaid the members on the class on royalties they were owed from wells. The petition alleged that this underpayment constituted a breach of contract and sought damages without specifying an amount.
On December 5, 2012, the defendants removed the case from state court to federal district court and cited that federal jurisdiction existed under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA). CAFA requires that three elements be established for a class action case to fall under federal jurisdiction: at least one plaintiff and one defendant must be citizens of different states, the class must consist of at least 100 members, and the amount in controversy must exceed $5 million. The defendants in this case claimed that they met the requirements for removal to federal court under CAFA because the amount in controversy exceeded $8 million, but did not include specific evidence in the notice of removal. The federal district court held that defendants had not provided evidence that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million in the notice of removal and therefore remanded the case back to state court.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that the district court should not have remanded the case because requiring the party requesting the removal to produce evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million creates an evidentiary burden. The Court of Appeals held that that such evidence is wholly unnecessary unless the removal is contested. A party requesting that a case be removed to federal court need only allege that the grounds for removal exist and need only prove those allegations if they are contested.
Is a defendant seeking removal of a case to federal court required to provide evidence supporting federal jurisdiction in the notice of removal?