Six million times $3,500 doesn't add up to $75,000.

Try as they might, Ford and Citibank failed to convince the Ninth Circuit that a nationwide multidistrict action met the U.S. federal court jurisdiction floor of $75,000 in controversy. In re Ford Motor Co./Citibank (South Dakota) N.A. Cardholder Rebate Program Litigation, 264 F.3d 952 (9th Cir. 2001).

After six state court actions were transferred to U.S. federal court and consolidated by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in the Western District of Washington, about six million Ford / Citibank credit cardholders were left charging that Ford and Citibank wrongfully terminated a card usage incentive program. The most an individual cardholder could receive, if successful, would be a rebate of $3,500. In addition to compensatory damages, the plaintiffs sought injunctive relief, disgorgement, and punitive damages. After pretrial discovery, the district judge, acting sua sponte, dismissed the consolidated complaint on the ground that the federal court lacked jurisdiction because the action did not involve $75,000 in controversy.

Affirming the dismissal in an opinion by Judge Wallace, the Ninth Circuit noted that Ford and Citibank did not contend that any plaintiff had an individual damages claim exceeding $75,000, that the individual claims could be aggregated, or that the individual plaintiffs had a common and undivided interest in a claim for damages.

It turned then to the Ford-Citibank contention that their cost of compliance with the...

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