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Check-Cashing Fee Class Suit Heads to State Court

(CN) - A $4 check-cashing fee that Fifth Third Bank charges those who do not have accounts with them should be handled in a Florida state court, a federal judge ruled.

Brian McDaniel sued Fifth Third Bank in November 2013, claiming the bank unlawfully deducts $4 to $10 from checks presented to it by non-account holders, despite the fact the parties have no contractual relationship and never agreed to such deductions.

McDaniel, who says he had the fee deducted when he cashed a $75 check at a Fifth Third Bank branch in July 2012, said the bank must pay or settle a check according to its terms - in other words, in full.

Hoping to represent a class, McDaniel sued in the Circuit Court of Orange County, Fla. Fifth Third Bank removed the case to the Middle District of Orlando, but U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell in Orlando remanded the case last week.

Because the parties have agreed that compensatory and statutory damages would not exceed $2.9 million, jurisdiction turns on whether punitive damages could exceed $2 million, if they are recoverable at all.

After reviewing McDaniel's claims, Presnell concluded they would not.

To begin wit, McDaniel's fraud and fraud in inducement claims are deficient on their face, according to the ruling.

Additionally, the statutory limit on punitive damages under Florida's Consumer Collection Protection Act is $1.5 million.

"Simply put, McDaniel does not appear to have viable claims, and the only claims that could result in sufficient punitive damages to confer federal jurisdiction fail as a matter of law," Presnell wrote. "Therefore, McDaniel's motion to remand to state court must be granted."

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