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Teitelman v. Buca

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


September 18, 2009

BARBARA TEITELMAN, AN INDIVIDUAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BUCA, INC., A BUSINESS ENTITY, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge

ORDER REMANDING CASE TO STATE COURT

[Court's Order to Show Cause filed on August 26, 2009]

I. BACKGROUND

This case was originally filed in state court and Defendant removed on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. On August 26, 2009, the Court ordered the parties to show cause why this case should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 4.) The Court noted that it was not clear from Defendant's removal papers that the amount in controversy exceeded the $75,000 jurisdictional threshold. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

Defendant has now provided a response to the Court's order.*fn1 After reviewing the response, the Court concludes that diversity jurisdiction is lacking, and remands the case to state court.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal courts strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction. Luther v. Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP, 533 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2008)(citing Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992)). A defendant bears the burden of establishing that removal is proper, and federal jurisdiction "must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566.

In Sanchez v. Monumental Life Insurance Co., 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 1996), the Ninth Circuit held that when it is not evident from the face of a complaint that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold, the removing party must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the threshold has been met. Accordingly, a removing defendant must put forth evidence establishing that it is "more likely than not" that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant has not established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy in this case exceeds $75,000. Defendant's response to the Court's OSC provides no specific information regarding Plaintiff's claims. It does not, for example, attempt to quantify the amount of backpay and lost future earnings Plaintiff would be entitled to if she were to prevail on her state law claims.

Instead, Defendant offers a vague and conclusory appraisal of the economic and non-economic damages that Plaintiff seeks. Defendant's response to the Court's OSC cites to four cases involving race and age discrimination claims where a jury awarded the plaintiff more than $75,000 in damages, but makes no effort to explain whether the facts of those cases resemble the facts alleged in this matter. In sum, Defendant has not carried its burden of establishing that it is "more likely than not" that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Sanchez, 102 F.3d at 404.

IV. CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, the case is remanded to state court.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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