United States District Court, N.D. California
October 3, 2005.
MARTHA E. HUBBARD, et al., Plaintiff,
BLUE SHIELD OF CALIFORNIA, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAUNDRA ARMSTRONG, District Judge
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Dismiss Federal Claim and Remand Case to State Court [Docket No.
17]. Having read and considered the arguments presented by the
parties in the papers submitted to the Court, the Court finds
this matter appropriate for resolution without a hearing. The
Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss Federal Claim
and REMANDS the case to the Superior Court of the State of
California in and for the County of San Francisco.
Plaintiff Martha Hubbard ("Plaintiff") began employment with
Defendant Blue Shield of California ("Defendant" or "Blue
Shield") as a Project Manager on July 10, 2000. First Amended
Complaint ("FAC") at ¶ 3. On or about November 10, 2004,
Plaintiff received notice that she would be laid off and that her
employment with Blue Shield would be terminated. FAC at ¶ 5.
Plaintiff received a layoff notice on December 3, 2004. Id.
Plaintiff subsequently applied for other positions at Blue Shield
for which she was qualified. Id. at ¶ 6. Blue Shield rejected
all of Plaintiff's applications. Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiff suspects
that her employment was terminated due to age. Id. at 7. On May 11, 2005, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant
Blue Shield in the Superior Court of the State of California in
and for the County of San Francisco. Not. of Rem. at ¶ 1. The
complaint alleged causes of action for: (1) age discrimination in
violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act; (2)
age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act; and (3) a common law claim for violation of state
and federal public policy. Not. of Rem. at Ex. A. On May 25,
2005, Defendant filed its answer to the complaint.
On May 26, 2005, Defendant removed the action to federal court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441(b).
On June 6, 2005, the parties submitted a stipulation and
proposed order requesting leave for Plaintiff to file a First
Amended Complaint. On July 11, 2005, the Court granted the
parties' request. Subsequently, on July 12, 2005, Plaintiff filed
her First Amended Complaint. Defendant filed its answer to the
First Amended Complaint on July 22, 2005.
On July 26, 2005, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Dismiss
Federal Claim and Remand.
The federal removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, provides that
"any civil action brought in a State court . . . may be removed
by the defendant or the defendants" to federal court on the basis
of federal question or diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. 1441(a);
Snow v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.2d 787, 789 (9th Cir. 1977). The
Court must determine whether removal was proper by "looking to
the complaint at the time the removal petition was filed."
Chesler/Perlmutter Prods. v. Fireworks Entm't, Inc.,
177 F.Supp. 2d 1050, 1058 (C.D. Cal. 2001) (citing Libhart v. Santa
Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1065 (9th Cir. 1979)). In a
non-diversity case, if the defendant removes a lawsuit that joins
both federal and state law claims, the district court may
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims if
those claims are so closely related to the federal claim that
they "form part of the same case or controversy."
28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).
When a case is properly removed on the basis of federal
question jurisdiction, but the federal claims subsequently drop
out of the action, the district court retains the discretion to
remand the action to state court. See Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v.
Cahill, 484 U.S. 343, 348 (9th Cir. 1991). In each case, and at
every stage of the litigation, the federal court must consider
and weigh the values of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity in order to decide
whether to exercise jurisdiction over a case involving pendent
state-law claims. Id. at 349. The doctrine of pendent
jurisdiction is a doctrine of flexibility, designed to allow
courts to deal with cases involving pendent claims in the manner
that most sensibly accommodates a range of concerns and values.
Id. When the balance of the relevant factors indicates that a
case properly belongs in state court, such as when the federal
claims have dropped out of the lawsuit in the early stages of the
litigation, the district court may decline the exercise of
jurisdiction and may remand the action to state court. Id. As
the United States Supreme Court recognized in United Mine
Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966), the district court's
jurisdiction over state law claims "need not be exercised in
every case in which it is found to exist. . . . Needless
decisions of state law should be avoided as a matter of
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a), an action
may be dismissed by a plaintiff without order of Court: (i) prior
to service by the adverse party of an answer or of a motion for
summary judgment, whichever occurs first; or (ii) by filing a
stipulation of dismissal signed by all parties who have appeared
in the action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a). Otherwise, Rule 41(b)
provides that an action may be dismissed upon order of the Court
and upon such terms and conditions as the Court deems proper.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). In the instant case, since Defendant has
filed its answer, Plaintiff may dismiss her federal claim only
upon order of this Court. Here, the requested dismissal results
from Plaintiff's decision to abandon her federal claim upon
learning of an unfavorable ruling relating to attorney's fees
that was recently issued in an unrelated case in the Northern
District of California.
In its opposition, Defendant does not oppose Plaintiff's
decision to dismiss her federal claim with prejudice, but argues
that the Court should nevertheless exercise its discretion to
retain supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law
claims. Specifically, Defendant accuses Plaintiff of "forum
shopping" and argues that Plaintiff has caused Defendant to
needlessly expend time and resources defending this case in
federal court. This Court does not condone Plaintiff's decision
to relinquish her federal cause of action, which is premised at
least in part on Plaintiff's desire to avoid an unfavorable
decision regarding attorney's fees. However, there is also no
evidence that Plaintiff reached this decision in bad faith.
Further, even if it were established that Plaintiff has
inappropriately engaged in forum shopping, this is but one factor to be considered by the
Court in deciding whether it should retain jurisdiction over the
state law claims. The Court must also consider and weigh the
values of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity.
Carnegie-Mellon Univ., 484 U.S. at 349.
In the instant case, the parties have been proceeding in this
Court for only four months. During this time, Plaintiff has
amended her complaint only once, pursuant to a stipulation
between the parties, and Defendant has filed its answer. The
initial Case Management Conference has not yet occurred. The
pleadings filed by both parties have been fairly insubstantial;
indeed, the First Amended Complaint contains only sixteen factual
allegations. Accordingly, Defendant's argument that it has been
forced to devote a substantial amount of time to "defending"
itself in federal court is grossly overstated. In fact, this
Court has little familiarity with the instant case and, save for
the filing of the notice of removal, Defendant has not incurred
any expenses unique to its presence in federal court.
Accordingly, the Court concludes that retention of the remaining
state law claims is not appropriate. See Wren v. Sletten Const.
Co., 654 F.2d 529, 536 (9th Cir. 1981) (declining to retain
jurisdiction over state law claims after finding that the issues
arising under state law had not been briefed, or raised in oral
argument, before the district court).
The authorities cited by Defendant do not compel a different
conclusion. For example, in In re Paoli Railroad, 35 F.3d 717,
738 (3rd Cir. 1994), the court retained jurisdiction over the
remaining state law claims after noting that the litigation had
been proceeding for six years, during which time extensive
discovery had occurred. Id. at 738. Similarly, in Brown v.
Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., 901 F.2d 1250, 1255 (5th Cir.
1990), the district court had presided over discovery issues for
a year and was "intimately familiar with the facts." Id. at
Since the decision to exercise supplemental jurisdiction is
within the discretion of this Court, and since Plaintiff's
decision to voluntarily dismiss her sole federal claim with
prejudice comes at the earliest stage of these proceedings, the
Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to dismiss her federal
cause of action and remands the action to state court.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss Federal
Claim and Remand Case to State Court [Docket No. 17] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED THAT the case is REMANDED to the Superior
Court of the State of California in and for the County of San
Francisco. The clerk is directed to terminate any pending matters
and to close the file.
IT IS SO ORDERED
© 1992-2005 VersusLaw Inc.