Judge Keeps Texarkana Case In Federal Court

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Sep. 2, 2013 12:00 am  

John Goodson

Holmes said the case could stay in U.S. District Court in Texarkana. A proposed trial date is set for Sept. 15, 2014.

Fighting for State Court

Holmes’ ruling was the second major loss for Goodson and his co-counsels in the case.

When the Knowles lawsuit was filed in 2011 in Miller County Circuit Court, the plaintiffs’ attorneys stipulated in the complaint that Knowles and the rest of the class would not seek more than $5 million in damages and fees for the Arkansas policyholders. That point was key; under the Class Action Fairness Act passed by Congress, defendants can unilaterally move cases worth more than $5 million out of state courts and into federal court.

And that’s what Standard Fire wanted to do, because class-action defendants in Miller County Circuit Court have been hammered with demands to produce millions of pages of documents at their own expense.

Standard Fire attempted to move the case to U.S. District Court in 2011, where it thought it would have an impartial court experience. But because of Knowles’ stipulation that he wouldn’t seek more than $5 million in damages, the case was returned to Miller County.

But the U.S. Supreme Court on March 19 issued a unanimous decision in favor of Standard Fire, which had appealed the question of such stipulations. The highest court said plaintiffs can’t stipulate before the lawsuit is certified as a class action that they aren’t seeking more than $5 million in fees and damages.



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