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PIERSON v. SOURCE PERRIER

March 22, 1994

DANIEL PIERSON, et al.
v.
SOURCE PERRIER, S.A., et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES T. GILES

 GILES, J.

 Defendants removed this action from state court, asserting that this court has diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff now moves for remand. For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's motion will be granted.

 I. INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiff Daniel Pierson ("Pierson") filed the instant case in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas as a putative class action on behalf of all residents of Pennsylvania who purchased Perrier brand sparkling water for personal, family, or household purposes between February 15, 1986 and February 15, 1990. Complaint P 9. *fn1"

 The complaint alleges that defendants (collectively "Perrier") misrepresented through advertising and labeling that their sparkling water is not processed and filtered before it is bottled. The complaint asserts two claims under Pennsylvania law: Count I claims that Perrier violated the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 Pa.C.S. § 201-1 et seq., and Count II asserts a claim for breach of warranty under the Uniform Commercial Code, 13 Pa.C.S. §§ 2313 & 2314. Plaintiffs seek: (1) actual damages and multiple damages "as authorized by statute" plus damages under the breach of warranty claim; (2) punitive damages; (3) an order permanently enjoining defendants from "continuing, maintaining, or reviving the unlawful conduct alleged" in the complaint; (4) disgorgement of profits plaintiffs obtained through their alleged unlawful conduct; and (5) any other, further relief as the Court may deem proper. Complaint at P 34 (a)-(e).

 Perrier removed the case, asserting that this court has diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 & 1441. Pierson now moves that the case be remanded to state court, asserting that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the amount in controversy does not exceed $ 50,000.

 II. DISCUSSION

 This court has diversity jurisdiction only if the parties are of diverse citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $ 50,000, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). In the instant case, it is undisputed that diversity of citizenship exists. *fn2" The only question before us is whether the amount in controversy requirement is met.

 The requirement that the amount in controversy be greater than $ 50,000 "must be narrowly construed so as not to frustrate the congressional purpose behind it: to keep the diversity caseload of the federal courts under some modicum of control." Packard v. Provident National Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1044-45 (3d Cir. 1993), cert. denied, Upp v. Mellon Bank, N.A., 126 L. Ed. 2d 373, 114 S. Ct. 440 (1993). As the party asserting jurisdiction, Perrier bears the burden of showing that the case is properly before the court at all stages of the litigation. Id. All doubts concerning jurisdiction should be resolved in favor of remand. Abels v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 770 F.2d 26, 29 (3d Cir. 1985).

 In a diversity-based class action, "it is well-settled that . . . members of the class may not aggregate their claims in order to reach the requisite amount in controversy." Packard, 994 F.2d at 1045 (citing Snyder v. Harris, 394 U.S. 332, 89 S. Ct. 1053, 22 L. Ed. 2d 319 (1969)). Instead, " each member of the class must claim at least the jurisdictional amount." Packard, 994 F.2d at 1045 (citing Zahn v. International Paper Co., 414 U.S. 291, 94 S. Ct. 505, 38 L. Ed. 2d 511 (1973)). Thus, this case must be remanded unless the amount in controversy exceeds $ 50,000 for Pierson and for each member of the putative class.

 Perrier does not argue that the total value of the relief available to each putative plaintiff could possibly amount to more than $ 50,000. Instead, it argues that an exception to the "non-aggregation" rule, which permits aggregation of claims "when class members sue jointly to enforce a common title or right in which they have common and undivided interest," Packard, 994 F.2d at 1050 n.14 (citing Zahn, supra), applies in the instant case. In addition, defendants argue that the jurisdictional limit is met because the cost to them of the injunctive relief sought by plaintiffs would exceed $ 50,000. The court rejects both arguments. *fn3"

 A. Common And Undivided Interest

 A "common and undivided interest," allowing plaintiffs to aggregate their claims, exists only when plaintiffs' claims "derive from rights which they hold in group status." Potrero Hill Community Action Committee v. Housing Authority of San Francisco, 410 F.2d 974, 978 (9th Cir. 1969). Even if plaintiffs' claims present common questions of law and fact, as they must if they are to be certified as a class, it does not necessarily imply that their rights are held in group status. United States v. Southern Pacific Transp. Co., 543 F.2d 676, 683 (9th Cir. 1976). Aggregation is not allowed ...


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