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The Supreme Court on Monday questioned efforts by consumers’ lawyers to limit the amount of money sought in class-action lawsuits so they are heard in state courts rather than more business-friendly federal court.

The justices appeared receptive to an insurance company’s argument that lawyers artificially lower the amount at stake to keep the lawsuits in state courts, which often favor plaintiffs. The Standard Fire Insurance Co. says the tactic drags out lawsuits and makes them too expensive to fight.

The case involves a 2005 federal law that allows defendants to transfer class actions involving more than $5 million to federal court. A federal appeals court ruled that an Arkansas homeowner’s suit over hail damage could remain in state court because he has promised in writing to seek less than $5 million for himself and other Arkansas homeowners insured by Standard Fire.

The issue for the justices is whether Greg Knowles’ promise binds others who may become part of the lawsuit. The company says the Class Action Fairness Act bars such promises.

From wire dispatches and staff reports