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Jerry Darneal v. Allied Waste Transportation

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


December 16, 2010

JERRY DARNEAL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLIED WASTE TRANSPORTATION, INC., DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff Jerry Darneal ("Plaintiff"), individually, and as part of a putative class, seeks redress from Defendant Allied Waste Transportation, Inc. ("Defendant") for Defendant's failure to provide meal periods, rest periods, and compensation in compliance with California state law. Before the Court are Defendant's Motions to Remand the case to state court, and Plaintiff's Request for Sanctions against Defendant (ECF Nos. 12 and 13, respectively).

I. MOTION TO REMAND

Plaintiff filed the instant action in San Joaquin Superior Court, and Defendant removed the case asserting that this Court has jurisdiction pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d), 1453, and 1711-1715 ("CAFA"). In the Notice of Removal, however, Defendant stated both that CAFA applies, AND that the parties are diverse and meet the amount-in-controversy requirement under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

In a somewhat confusing turn, Defendant now seeks to remand the case back to Superior Court because Defendant erroneously calculated the potential class members when it originally removed the case. As such, Defendant can no longer assert that Plaintiff's claims meet CAFA's requirements.*fn1 Defendant asserts the cause of the discrepancy involves potential subsidiary employee relationships of purported Allied Waste employees. Defendant is silent as to whether Allied Waste owns some, or all, of these subsidiaries, and fails to illuminate the nature of the relationship between the subsidiaries and parent organization.

It should be noted that there is also a dispute between the parties as to whether Defendant meets the definition of employer under applicable statutes, which would also weigh directly on the ability for the parties, and the Court, to calculate the putative class.

Also, while Defendant argues that federal question jurisdiction no longer exists, the motion makes no mention of the issue of diversity jurisdiction, as Defendant pled in the Notice of Removal.

The question of the number of potential class members is a factual inquiry that is likely to be resolved through continued litigation, and the applicability of CAFA is a core issue of the case. Even if it does not apply, the parties are still diverse for jurisdictional purposes. Therefore, Defendant's Motion to Remand is denied.*fn2

II. MOTION TO STRIKE AND FOR SANCTIONS

Plaintiff asks the Court to do the following: (1) strike portions of Defendant's First Amended Answer; (2) impose sanctions on Defendant's counsel for asserting evidence designed to harass Plaintiff, cause delay, and/or needlessly increase the cost of litigation; and (3) award attorney's fees to Plaintiff for time extended to defend Defendant's assertions.

Defendant previously stated in various pleadings that they employ at least 200 drivers in the State of California, and that Plaintiff was definitely Defendant's employee.

The portions of Defendant's Answer that Plaintiff moves to strike include information that now alleges Plaintiff is not an employee of Defendant, and that there are significantly less than 200 of Defendant's employees in California. Again, such factual discrepancies, while admittedly unusual, are issues that will be resolved through further litigation, and are not ripe for adjudication at this time.

Therefore, Defendant's Motion to Remand (ECF No. 12) is DENIED. Plaintiff's Motion to Strike and for Sanctions (ECF No. 13) is also DENIED.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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