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Delfa Melendez, An Individual v. Hms Host Family Restaurants

August 25, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Otis D. Wright, II United States District Judge



Currently before the Court is Plaintiff Delfa Melendez's ("Plaintiff") Motion to Remand. (Dkt. No. 9.) Having considered the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the instant Motion, the Court deems the matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78 ("Rule __"); L.R. 7-15. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion.


Plaintiff's Complaint alleges the following: Defendant HMS Host Family Restaurants, Inc. ("Defendant") hired Plaintiff as a food pantry worker at its Los Angeles International Airport location. (Compl. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff's hourly wage was $9.12 for an average of forty-five hours per week. (Id.) On or about January 8, 2009, Plaintiff began feeling pain in both her wrists and her hands while working, and shortly thereafter, Plaintiff informed her manager. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) Plaintiff's doctor instructed work restrictions that were subsequently relayed to her manager on January 12, 2009. (Id. ¶ 16.) On January 31, 2009, Plaintiff was verbally and in writing laid-off because she was too "slow." (Id. ¶ 17.)

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff brings the following claims against Defendant: (1) Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing; (2) Age Discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"); (3) Failure to Accommodate in violation of the FEHA; (4) Disability Discrimination in violation of FEHA; (5) Retaliation; (6) Wrongful Termination in violation of public policy; and (7) Violation of Business & Professions Code § 17200 et seq.

Plaintiff filed this action in Los Angeles County Superior Court on January 26, 2011. On May 4, 2011, Defendant removed the case to this Court. Plaintiff now argues that removal was improper because Defendant has failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the requisite amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00.


Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. See, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A suit filed in state court may be removed to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the suit. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A removed action must be remanded to state court if the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). "The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is on the party seeking removal, and the removal statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction." Prize Frize, Inc. v. Matrix (U.S.) Inc., 167 F.3d 1261, 1265 (9th Cir. 1999), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Abrego v. Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 681 (9th Cir. 2006).

Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." Section 1332(a), in turn, provides that "the district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000.00, exclusive of interest and costs," and is between parties with diverse citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).


Plaintiff moves the Court to remand this case arguing that her claims do not meet the amount in controversy necessary for diversity jurisdiction. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that Defendants have not proven that it is more likely than not that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional limit of $75,000.00. On the contrary, Defendant contends removal was proper because an actual award of back pay, front pay, attorneys' fees, and punitive damages will be above the jurisdictional limit. The Court addresses the parties' arguments to the extent necessary.

In cases in which a plaintiff's state court complaint does not specify an exact figure for damages, as here, the defendant must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds the statutory minimum. See Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 403 (9th Cir. 1996) (holding that where the amount at stake was not clear from allegations in the complaint, defendant seeking to remain in federal court has the burden "of actually proving the facts to support jurisdiction, including the jurisdictional amount"). Courts look to "the time of the filing of a complaint" to determine whether complete diversity exists. In re Haw. Fed. Asbestos Cases, 960 F.2d 806, 810 (9th Cir. 1992). Also, the Court finds proof from the notice of removal and may, if it chooses, construe the opposition to the motion to remand as an amendment to the notice of removal. See Cohn v. Petsmart, Inc., 281 F.3d 837, 840 n.1 (9th Cir. 2002). Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right ...

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