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Scott v. Cricket Communications, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 19, 2016

MICHAEL A. SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
CRICKET COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, Defendant. MICHAEL A. SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
CRICKET COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on several motions related to Plaintiff Michael A. Scott’s putative class action alleging Defendant Cricket Communications, LLC (“Cricket”) violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (“MMWA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 2301 et seq. (2012). Scott filed Motions to Remand (ECF No. 15, GLR-15-3330; ECF No. 18, GLR-15-3759) and a Motion to Strike New Materials and Arguments or for Leave to File a Surreply Addressing Them (ECF No. 30, GLR-15-3330). Cricket filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 20, GLR-15-3330), Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Stay (ECF No. 16, GLR-15-3759), and Motion to Relate Case (ECF No. 16, GLR-15-3330). All Motions are ripe for disposition.

         Having reviewed the Motions and supporting documents, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant the Motions to Remand and deny all other Motions as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Sometime between July 2013 and March 2014, Scott purchased two Samsung Galaxy S4 cellphones from Cricket that cost “hundreds of dollars each.” (Class Action Compl. ¶¶ 26, 27, ECF No. 2, GLR-15-3330). The paperwork accompanying the cellphones expressly stated that Cricket’s Code Division Multiple Access (“CDMA”) network provided “unsurpassed nationwide coverage.” (Id. ¶ 28). Unbeknownst to Scott, however, at least as early as July 2013, AT&T had acquired Cricket and intended to shut down Cricket’s CDMA network and switch previous Cricket customers to AT&T’s Global Systems for Mobile (“GSM”) network. (Id. ¶ 5). Though Cricket knew the CDMA network would be shut down, Cricket “locked” Scott’s cellphones for use exclusively on Cricket’s CDMA network. (Id. ¶ 7). This rendered Scott’s cellphones “useless and worthless” and “obsolete.” (Id. ¶¶ 1, 7, 8).

         Scott filed a putative Class Action Complaint on September 24, 2015 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland (“Scott I”). (ECF No. 2, GLR-15-3330). Scott defines the class as “[a]ll Maryland citizens who, between July 12, 2013 and March 13, 2014, purchased a CDMA mobile telephone from Cricket which was locked for use only on Cricket’s CDMA network.” (Class Action Compl. ¶ 51). Scott raises a single claim for violation of the MMWA stemming from alleged breaches of express warranties and the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. (Id. ¶¶ 60-66).

         On October 30, 2015, Cricket removed Scott I to this Court. (ECF No. 1, GLR-15-3330). On November 10, 2015, Scott filed a Complaint Petitioning to Stay Threatened Arbitration in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland (“Scott II”). (ECF No. 2, GLR-15-3759). On December 9, 2015, Cricket removed Scott II to this Court. (ECF No. 1, GLR-15-3759). On November 23, 2015, Scott filed a Motion to Remand Scott I. (ECF No. 15, GLR-15-3330). On December 2, 2015, Cricket filed a Motion to Relate Scott I to Bond v. Cricket Communications, LLC, No. WDQ-15-923 (D.Md. stayed Jan. 12, 2016). (ECF No. 16, GLR-15-3330). On December 16, 2015, Cricket filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 20, GLR-15-3330) and Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, to Stay (ECF No. 16, GLR-15-3759). On December 21, 2015, Scott filed a Motion to Remand Scott II. (ECF No. 18, GLR-15-3759). Finally, on February 26, 2016, Scott filed a Motion to Strike New Materials and Arguments or for Leave to File a Surreply Addressing Them (ECF No. 30, GLR-15-3330). All Motions are opposed.

         II. DISCUSSION

          A. Motions to Remand

         1. Scott I

         a. Legal Standard

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and “may not exercise jurisdiction absent a statutory basis.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005). Under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), federal courts have jurisdiction over a class action when there is: (1) minimal diversity, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(A); (2) an aggregate amount in controversy exceeding $5 million, exclusive of interest and costs, § 1332(d)(2); and (3) a class size greater than 100 persons, § 1332(d)(5)(B).

         There is minimal diversity under CAFA when “any member of the class is a citizen of a state different from the defendant.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(A). In this context, “residency is not sufficient to establish citizenship.” Johnson v. Advance Am., 549 F.3d 932, 937 n.2 (4th Cir. 2008). Rather, “[t]o be a citizen of a State, a person must be both a citizen of the United States and a domiciliary of that State.” Id. (citing Newman-Green, Inc. v. Alfonzo-Larrain, 490 U.S. 826, 828 (1989)). “Domicile requires physical presence, coupled with an intent to make the State a home.” Id. (citing Miss. Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30, 48 (1989)). Factors relevant to determining an individual’s domicile include “current residence; voting registration and voting practices; location of personal and real property; location of brokerage and bank accounts; membership in unions; fraternal organizations, churches, clubs, and other associations; place of employment or business; driver’s license and automobile registration; payment of taxes; as well as several others.” Blake v. Arana, No. WQQ-13-2551, 2014 WL 2002446, at *2 (D.Md. May 14, 2014) (quoting Dyer v. Robinson, 853 F.Supp. 169, 172 (D.Md. 1994)).

         Though the Court typically construes removal jurisdiction strictly, see Md. Stadium Auth. v. Ellerbe Becket Inc., 407 F.3d 255, 260 (4th Cir. 2005), there is no presumption in favor of remand when cases are removed under CAFA, Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). The “primary objective” of CAFA is to “ensur[e] ‘[f]ederal court consideration of interstate cases of national importance.” Standard Fire Ins. Co. v. Knowles,133 S.Ct. 1345, 1350 (2013) (citation omitted). “CAFA’s ‘provisions should be read broadly, with a strong preference that ...


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