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ABM Industries v. Castro

This case originated as a class action lawsuit in a California state court by employees of a janitorial services company seeking reimbursement for mobile phone expenses they were required by the company to incur in order to do their jobs. The defendant, ABM Industries, removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), claiming that the class claims sought damages exceeding $5 million. After removal, the plaintiffs amended the complaint to assert a non-class claim under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). They then moved to remand because the class claims did not seek more than $5 million. The district court remanded, and ABM obtained leave to appeal. While the appeal was pending, however, ABM removed the case again, arguing that the amounts sought under the PAGA claim should be aggregated with the class action claims to reach CAFA’s over-$5 million amount-in-controversy requirement. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal as moot in light of the second removal, and then the district court remanded again because of a recent Ninth Circuit opinion in a case called Yokupicio v. PAE Group, which held non-class claims may not be added to class claims to reach CAFA’s $5 million threshold. ABM sought leave to appeal the remand, and the Ninth Circuit denied permission to appeal.

ABM filed a petition for certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to review the correctness of the Yokupicio ruling as well as that of an earlier Ninth Circuit decision, Baumann v. Chase Investment Services, which held that PAGA claims are not class actions under CAFA. Public Citizen, as cocounsel for the plaintiffs, filed a brief in opposition explaining that neither the Baumann nor the Yokupicio issue merits certiorari and that this case would be a poor vehicle for addressing those issues given its messy procedural history. The Court denied the petition.