Appeals court sends Kentucky Fried Chicken class action case back to district court

By Charmaine Little | Sep 8, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit remanded a class action lawsuit on Sept. 6 against Great American Chicken Corp. after it failed to meet a residency rule for class action members.

Circuit Judge Richard R. Clifton authored the opinion. Circuit Judge Morgan B. Christen and District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe concurred.

Celena King, who sued the Great American Chicken Corp., also known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, failed to prove that at least two-thirds of the class action members were California citizens when the class action was remanded from federal court to Los Angeles Superior Court. 

The lawsuit is over alleged violations of state labor and wage laws.


Judge Richard R. Clifton  

Kentucky Fried Chicken had removed the lawsuit to federal court from superior court, under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). 

While both parties agreed to the removal via CAFA, the plaintiff had wanted to remand the case to the state court under the local controversy or home-state controversy exception of the CAFA jurisdiction. 

The ultimate question of whether King could remand the case was based on whether she proved more than two-thirds of the class members were California citizens when it was removed to federal court.

While the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted King’s remand and removed the lawsuit to state court after it determined she met her burden of approval, the appeals court disagreed. 

It said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that eliminating those who might have had last-known addresses in the state, but weren’t actually state citizens because they weren’t even U.S. citizens, would mean that King still met her requirement.

“Because there was no other evidence before the district court on the subject, the finding that more than two-thirds of the putative class members were citizens of California at the time of removal was clearly erroneous.”

The appeals court vacated the remand of the case to the state court and remanded it back to federal district court. Still, it also added King will be allowed to have proper jurisdictional discovery to renew her motion to remand the case to the state court.

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