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Scott v. Cricket Communications, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 30, 2018

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 both on remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and on several motions related to Plaintiff Michael A. Scott's putative class action alleging that Defendant Cricket Communications, LLC (“Cricket”) violated the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (“MMWA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 2301- 12 (2018). There are five Motions before the Court. First, there is Scott's Motion to Strike Renewed Notice of Removal and to Remand, which the Court construes as a Motion to Remand[1] (ECF No. 60).[2] Next, there are Cricket's four Motions: Motion to Vacate State Court Class Certification Order (ECF No. 43); Motion to Vacate State Court Order Denying Cricket's Motion to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 44); Motion to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 45); and Motion to Stay Proceedings in Part (ECF No. 46). All Motions from both parties are opposed, and all 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 deny Scott's Motion to Strike and Remand, grant Cricket's Motion to Stay Proceedings in Part, and deny without prejudice Cricket's Motions to Vacate State Court Class Certification Order and State Court Order Denying Cricket's Motion to Compel Arbitration. The Court will also deny without prejudice Cricket's Motion to Compel Arbitration.

         I. BACKGROUND [3]

         A. Removal of Scott's Original Complaint

         Between July 2013 and March 2014, Scott purchased two mobile phones from Cricket. (1st Am. Class Action Compl. [“1st Am. Compl.”] ¶ 26, ECF No. 41-2). The phones were only usable on networks that utilized Code Division Multiple Access (“CDMA”) technology. (Id. at ¶ 4). The phones were also “locked” by Cricket so they could not be used on an alternate network. (Id. at ¶ 7). Cricket shut down its CDMA network in 2015, and allegedly had planned on shutting it down as early as July 2013, when AT&T acquired Cricket. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-5, 20, 30).

         After Cricket shut down its CDMA network, the phones Scott purchased stopped working. (Id. at ¶¶ 4, 29). The phones could no longer be used for making telephone calls or for other forms of mobile communication. (Id. at ¶ 9). The phones also could not be transferred to and used on another network because Cricket had locked the devices exclusively to its own network. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7). As a result, Scott's devices, which he purchased for “hundreds of dollars each, ” are now unusable. (Id. at ¶ 27).

         Scott initiated a class action against Cricket in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland on September 24, 2015 (“Scott I”). (ECF No. 2). The Complaint (the “Original Complaint”) defined the class of persons on behalf of whom this action was brought 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, ECF No. 2). In his Original Complaint, Scott alleges that Cricket knew the phones it sold to Scott and similarly situated customers were obsolete at the time of the sale. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 18). Scott pleads that Cricket continued to sell the CDMA phones as part of a systematic scheme to sell customers defective phones that would have to be replaced when the CDMA network shut down. (Id. at ¶¶ 18, 24). Scott maintains that this scheme breaches express warranties and the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose in violation of the MMWA. (Id. at ¶¶ 60-66).

         On October 30, 2015, Cricket removed Scott I to this Court. (ECF No. 1). Scott filed a Motion to Remand to the state court on November 23, 2015. (ECF No. 15). Cricket then filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration on December 16, 2015. (ECF No. 20).

         On August 19, 2016, the Court granted Scott's Motion to Remand. (ECF Nos. 33, 34). In its Memorandum Opinion, the Court concluded that it did not have jurisdiction over this case under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(A) (2018). (Aug. 19, 2016 Mem. Op. [“Mem. Op.”] at 18, ECF No. 33). The Court decided that Cricket failed to establish the citizenship of customers to which it sold CDMA phones in Maryland during the relevant period. (Id. at 15-16). As a result, Cricket could not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeded the $5, 000, 000.00 CAFA requirement. (See id.).

         On August 29, 2016, Cricket filed for leave to appeal to the Fourth Circuit. (ECF No. 37). The Fourth Circuit granted Cricket leave to appeal on November 8, 2016. (ECF No. 38).

         On July 28, 2017, the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion vacating this Court's judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings. (July 28, 2017 4th Cir. Op. [“4th Cir. Op.”] at 14, ECF No. 39). The Fourth Circuit concluded that this Court had failed to make any finding of fact as to the amount in controversy. (Id. at 6). The Fourth Circuit held that Cricket does not need to make “a definitive determination of domicile” to show that at least 100 Maryland citizens purchased at least $5, 000, 000.00 worth of CDMA phones; Cricket only needs to provide enough facts to allow the Court to determine that it is more likely than not that Scott's case should be in federal court. (Id. at 11-13).

         B. State Court Proceedings

         Meanwhile, on August 30, 2016, one day after Cricket filed its petition to for leave to appeal with the Fourth Circuit, Cricket filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City a Motion to Stay the proceedings in “until the Fourth Circuit renders a final decision on Cricket's appeal.” (Def.'s Mot. Stay Proceedings at 1, ECF No. 48-7). Scott filed a Consent to Stay on September 2, 2016. (Pl.'s Consent to Stay Proceedings, ECF No. 48-9). The Circuit Court instituted a ninety-day stay on September 29, 2016, pending the Fourth Circuit's ruling on Cricket's petition. (Sept. 29, 2016 Order, ECF No. 48-8).

         On January 13, 2017, while Cricket's appeal was still pending, Scott filed a Motion to Lift Stay with the Circuit Court. (Pl.'s Mot. Lift Stay, ECF No. 48-17). Cricket opposed Scott's Motion, citing the still-pending Fourth Circuit appeal. (Def.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot. Lift Stay at 1-2, ECF No. 48-18). On February 3, 2017, the Circuit Court issued a one-page Order lifting the stay. (Feb. 3, 2017 Order, ECF No. 48-19).

         On February 17, 2017, Cricket filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration in the Circuit Court. (Def.'s Mot. Compel Arbitration, ECF No. 48-26). Scott filed an Opposition to Cricket's Motion to Compel Arbitration on March 7, 2017. (Pl.'s Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Compel Arbitration, ECF No. 48-27). The Circuit Court ultimately issued an Order denying Cricket's Motion to Compel Arbitration on May 11, 2017. (May 11, 2017 Order, ECF No. 48-29).

         On March 31, 2017, Scott filed a Motion for Certification of the Class in the Circuit Court. (Pl.'s Mot. Certification Class, ECF No. 49-1). Cricket filed an Opposition on May 1, 2017. (Def.'s Opp'n Mot. Class Cert., ECF No. 49-3). On June 9, 2017, the Circuit Court issued an Order certifying the Maryland class. (June 9, 2017 Order, ECF No. 49-5)

         On July 28, 2017, the same day the Fourth Circuit issued its opinion in this case, Scott filed a First Amended Class Action Complaint (“First Amended Complaint”) in the Circuit Court. (ECF No. 41-2). The First Amended Complaint contains allegations identical to the Original Complaint, except it adds a nationwide class. (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 52). The nationwide class is defined as: “All persons within the United States 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.” (Id.).

         C. Cricket's Renewed Notice of Removal

         On August 11, 2017, Cricket filed a Renewed Notice of Removal in this Court. (Renewed Notice Removal [“Renewed Removal”], ECF No. 41). The Renewed Notice of Removal alleges that this Court has jurisdiction under CAFA. (Id. ¶¶ 1-12). Scott filed a Motion to Strike Renewed Notice of Removal and to Remand on September 8, 2017. (ECF No. 60).

         Also on August 11, 2017, Cricket filed a Motion to Vacate State Court Class Certification Order (ECF No. 43), Motion to Vacate State Court Order Denying Cricket's Motion to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 44), Motion to Compel Arbitration (ECF No. 45), ...


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