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Randy Yingling v. Principal Financial Group

May 2, 2011

RANDY YINGLING,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRINCIPAL FINANCIAL GROUP, A DELAWARE CORPORATION, PRINCIPAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, AN IOWA CORPORATION, PRINCOR FINANCIAL SERVICES CORPORATION, AN IOWA CORPORATION, CHRISTOPHER M. MURRAY, LANCE E. HENNESAY, LISA CRIST, AND DOES 1 THROUGH CC INCLUSIVE,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lawrence J. O'Neill United States District Judge

ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR REMAND TO STATE COURT PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

(Document 6)

On March 18, 2010, Plaintiff Randy Yingling filed a complaint in the Kings County Superior Court. Plaintiff asserted claims of fraud and deceit, negligent misrepresentation and civil conspiracy. (Doc. 1, Ex. A.)

On May 7, 2010, Defendants Principal Financial Group, Principal Life Insurance Company, and Princor Financial Services Corporation (hereafter the "Principal Defendants") filed an answer to Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 1-1 at 66-70.)*fn1

On February 18, 2011, the Principal Defendants removed this action from the Kings County Superior Court. On March 18, 2011, Plaintiff filed the instant motion, seeking remand to the state court. (Doc. 6.) On April 8, 2011, the Principal Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiff's motion. (Doc. 32.) On April 15, 2011, Plaintiff filed a reply. (Doc. 37.)*fn2

FACTUAL SUMMARY

While employed with SK Foods, LP, Plaintiff participated in its Executive Non Qualified Excess Plan ("ENQEP" or "Plan") administered by and through the Principal Defendants. When Plaintiff's employment with SK Foods was terminated in September 2007, he thereafter sought compensation pursuant to the ENQEP, as termination of employment is a qualifying event triggering disbursement of funds.

Plaintiff alleges that while he has received a portion of the ENQEP funds, the Principal Defendants delayed said payments and remain obligated to Plaintiff for additional payments pursuant to the ENQEP.

LEGAL STANDARD

Title 28 of the United States Code section 1441(a) provides that a defendant may remove "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts . . . have original jurisdiction . . .." Removal is proper when a case originally filed in state court presents a federal question or where there is diversity of citizenship among the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332(a).

28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) provides that "[i]f at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded." "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 (9th Cir. 2009). The Ninth Circuit has held that "[w]here 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).

A motion to remand is the proper procedure for challenging removal. Babasa v. LensCrafters, Inc., 498 F.3d 972, 974 (9th Cir. 2007). When reviewing a motion to remand, a district court must analyze jurisdiction "on the basis of the pleadings filed at the time of removal without reference to subsequent amendments." Sparta Surgical Corp. v. Nat'l Ass'n of Sec. Dealers, Inc., 159 F.3d 1209, 1213 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). If a defendant has improperly removed a case over which the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the district court shall remand the case to the state court. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); see also Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1252 (9th Cir. 2006) (noting that a district court resolves all ambiguity in favor of remand). However, a district court lacks discretion to remand a case to the state court if the case was properly removed. Carpenters S. Cal. Admin. Corp. v. Majestic Hous., 743 F.2d 1341, 1343 (9th Cir. 1984); see also Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 356, 108 S.Ct. 614, 98 L.Ed.2d 720 (1988).

DISCUSSION

Here, Plaintiff seeks to remand the matter to state court on two bases: (1) Defendants' notice of removal is untimely; and (2) this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because ERISA expressly exempts unfunded excess benefit plans such as this one. (Doc. 6.) The Principal Defendants oppose the motion, contending removal is in fact ...


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