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Sam Heldman


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Thursday, September 19, 2002
No. 01-896 Ford Motor Co. v. McCauley

Ford and Citibank got together to issue a credit card that allowed cardholders to accumulate a rebate over a five-year period by using the card. Before the end of five years, they terminated the program. Naturally, cardholders got upset and decided to sue. Several suits were brought in several states. Ford and Citibank moved these cases into federal court based on diversity, then had the cases consolidated, with approximately six million plaintiffs. At this point, the district court in which the cases were consolidated wondered whether the cases met the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement for federal jurisdiction. The court found that they did not and remanded the cases back to the state courts from which they came. Faced with the prospect of defending six cases rather than one, Ford and Citibank appealed. Despite Ford and Citibank's arguments that the plaintiffs had an "undivided interest" in either the cost of compying with an injunction or the potential punitive damages, both of which would be greater than $75,000, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court that the amount-in-controversy requirement was not met.

One interesting aspect of this case is that after granting certorari, the Supreme Court required supplemental briefing on whether appellate jurisdiction exists where the "nominally prevailing party" in the district court appeals. Here, Ford and Citibank were the nominally prevailing parties because the case against them was dismissed.

Unfortunately, I can't get to the briefs on that issue because I can't access Findlaw's Supreme Court pages. I will therefore have to revisit this post, but my prediction on the merits of this case is that if it reaches the issue, the Court will AFFIRM. My suspicion is, however, that the court will find that there was NO APPELLATE JURISDICTION on the second issue (which must therefore be the first issue, because if it finds as I suspect, it will not reach the nominally first issue), but I want to read a bit more before I commit to that.