Another “commencement” case: Illinois Federal Judge cites Oklahoma brethren with approval in decision that case filed in state court on February 18th, an hour before presidential signature of CAFA, was subject to the Act.

Driscoll v. Pfizer, Inc., No. Civ. 05-252-GPM (S.D. Ill. October 25, 2005).

Chief Judge G. Patrick Murphy, of the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, handed down his Memorandum and Order on October 25, 2005, denying the plaintiff’s motion to remand in this putative class action filed on the morning of February 18, 2005, almost exactly one hour before President George W. Bush signed the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 into law. Pfizer timely removed the action, invoking the federal jurisdictional provisions of CAFA, followed by the plaintiff’s motion to remand, presenting the specific question of whether CAFA applied when the action was filed on the date of enactment but prior to the actual hour of the day that President Bush signed CAFA into law.

The court quickly pointed out that CAFA, by its specific terms, says that it shall apply to any civil action commenced on or after the date of its enactment, and discussed two unpublished decisions of the U. S. District Court of the Western District of Oklahoma deciding the exact issue, finding particularly persuasive Judge Heaton’s analysis in Isaacs v. Pfizer, Inc., No. Civ. 05-0426, (W.D. Okla. June 21, 2005) (Editor’s Note: See CAFA Law Blog summary posted September 30, 2005) that the time of day of filing on the date of CAFA’s enactment is immaterial. Chief Judge Murphy also cited Knudsen v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 411 F.3d 805 (7th Cir. 2005) (see CAFA Law Blog summary posted on September 3, 2005) and its progeny for the proposition that CAFA applies to all actions filed on or after February 18, 2005, and Pritchett v. Office Deport, Inc., 420 F.3d 1090 (10th Cir. 2005)(see CAFA Law Blog summary posted on October 23, 2005), noting that a civil action is “commenced” for the purposes of CAFA when it is filed in state court.

The Court also noted several of the cases discussing actions filed on February 17, 2005, concluding that “while the Court is sympathetic to the fact that plaintiff was one day late in filing his claim for purposes of keeping it in state court, there has to be a cutoff at some point. Congress clearly established cutoff as February 17th.” As a result of the plain language of § 9 of CAFA, the court found the plaintiff’s motion to remand without merit.