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Carey v. S.J. Louis Construction Inc.

September 29, 2010

JUSTIN CAREY; JOSEPH BORDEN; AND PEDRO ESPINOZA, EACH AS AN INDIVIDUAL, ON HIS OWN BEHALF, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
S.J. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION INC., A MINNESOTA CORPORATION, LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, A MASSACHUSETTS CORPORATION, AND DOES 1-200, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REMAND*fn1

On August 27, 2010, Plaintiffs Justin Carey and Joseph Borden filed a motion in which they seek to remand this case to the Sacramento County Superior Court in California from which it was removed. Defendant S.J. Louis Construction, Inc. ("S.J. Louis") opposes Plaintiffs' motion and Defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company ("Liberty Mutual") joins in S.J. Louis's opposition. Defendants argue diversity jurisdiction supports the removal of this case to federal court. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' motion to remand will be DENIED.

I. Background

On June 21, 2010, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint in the Sacramento County Superior Court, alleging six claims under state law. (First Am. Compl. ("FAC") ¶¶ 60-113.) Specifically, Plaintiffs allege: (1) failure to pay overtime wages in violation of California Labor Code section 1194 and illegal record keeping in violation of California Labor Code section 226; (2) failure to pay prevailing wages in violation of California Labor Code sections 1771 and 1774; (3) failure to pay for missed meal and rest breaks in violation of California Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512; (4) failure to timely pay wages due employees at termination in violation of California Labor Code sections 201-203; (5) recovery under public works payment bonds, California Civil Code section 3250; and (6) unfair business practices in violation of California Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq. Id.

On July 29, 2010, S.J. Louis filed a Notice of Removal, removing this case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal "Removal" ¶ 5.) S.J Louis's Notice of Removal states that removal is proper since there is complete diversity of citizenship between Plaintiffs and Defendants and the amount in controversy exceeds the sum of $75,000, exclusive of costs and interest. Id. ¶¶ 3-5.

II. Legal Standards

A. Removal

A defendant may remove to federal court "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts . . . have original jurisdiction [.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Removal, therefore, is only proper when a case originally filed in state court presents a federal question or is between citizens of different states and involves an amount in controversy that exceeds $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332(a). "The removal statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction [and] [t]he defendant bears the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Provincial Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome, Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1087 (9th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). "Where doubt regarding the right to removal exists, a case should be remanded to state court." Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003).

B. Diversity Jurisdiction

Defendants argue removal is proper based upon diversity jurisdiction. (Removal ¶ 5.) Diversity jurisdiction "requires that the parties be in complete diversity and the amount in controversy exceed $75,000." Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090; 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). "Where it is not facially evident from the complaint that more than $75,000 is in controversy, the removing party must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy meets the jurisdictional threshold." Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090.

For the purposes of sections 1332 and 1441, "a corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen of any State by which it has been incorporated and of the State where it has its principal place of business[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1). "The Supreme Court has recently clarified that the term 'principal place of business' means, for purposes of federal diversity jurisdiction, the locale where a 'corporation's high level officers direct, control, and coordinate the corporation's activities,' often called the 'nerve center.'" ProShipLine Inc. v. Aspen Infrastructures Ltd.,609 F.3d 960, 974 n.2 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hertz Corp. v. Friend, --- U.S. ----, 130 S.Ct. 1181, 1186 (2010)). "And in practice it should normally be the place where the corporation maintains its headquarters-provided that the headquarters is the actual center of direction, control, and coordination, i.e., the 'nerve center,' and not simply an office where the corporation holds its board meetings (for example, attended by directors and officers who have traveled there for the occasion)." Hertz Corp., 130 S.Ct. at 1192. For diversity jurisdiction to exist in the instant case, none of the defendants can be a citizen of the same state as one of the plaintiffs. Since Plaintiffs are citizens of California, none of Defendants can be citizens of California.

III. Discussion

Plaintiffs argue this action should be remanded to state court since Defendants failed to offer facts "to support the assertion that the principal place of business stated in the notice [of removal] is the corporate parties' principal place of business" and did not provide evidence "that the amount of damages to each plaintiff exceeds $75,000.00." (Mot. for Remand ("Mot.") 2:3-7.) Defendants respond, arguing diversity jurisdiction exists since the proffered evidence proves S.J. Louis's principal place of business is Rockville, Minnesota, and Liberty Mutual's principal place of business is Boston, Massachusetts because that is where each respective corporation's high level officers direct, control, and coordinate the corporations' activities. (S.J. Louis's Opp'n ("Opp'n") 1:7-11.) Defendants further argue that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 for ...


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