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Joshua Sauer v. the Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. et al.

October 28, 2011

JOSHUA SAUER
v.
THE PRUDENTIAL INS. CO. OF AM. ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Jacqueline H. Nguyen

JS-6

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

Present: The Honorable JACQUELINE H. NGUYEN

Chris Silva Not Reported N/A Deputy Clerk Court Reporter / Recorder Tape No. Attorneys Present for Plaintiffs: Attorneys Present for Defendants: Not present Not present

Proceedings: (IN CHAMBERS) ORDER REMANDING THE ACTION TO THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT

The Court has reviewed the Notice of Removal filed by Defendant Prudential Insurance Company ("Defendant"). (Docket No. 1.) After careful consideration of the record, the REMANDS the action to the SUPERIOR COURT FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES for the reasons stated below.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Joshua Sauer ("Plaintiff"), a former employee of Prudential Insurance Company ("Defendant"), filed a wage and hour claim for damages against the Defendant. (Compl. ¶ 4.) On November 3, 2008, Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a financial services associate for a period of two-years. (Id.) On February 15, 2010, prior to the termination of the two-year employment contract, Defendant required Plaintiff to enter into a new written contract wherein Plaintiff became a statutory agent and an independent contractor. (Id. at 5.) As a statutory agent, Plaintiff forfeited an enhancement bonus of $663.41 based on his quarterly Gross Distribution Revenue, which he would have been entitled to had he remained a financial services agent. (Domenick Decl. ¶¶ 3-5.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant forced him to sign the new contract under duress, and the unilateral abrogation of the pre-existing contract constituted a constructive termination of Plaintiff's employment. (Compl. ¶¶ 9, 11.)

Plaintiff brought this action in state court alleging causes of action for violation of (1) Cal. Lab. Code §§ 226 and 1198.5; (2) breach of contract; (3) waiting time penalties; and (4) violation of Cal. Lab. Code §§ 216 and 225.5. Plaintiff seeks special damages, attorney's fees, and other cost to be determined at trial. However, the Complaint is silent as to the amount of recovery Plaintiff is seeking. Thereafter, Defendant removed the action to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction.

II. DISCUSSION

The defendant bears the burden of establishing the propriety of removal, including actually proving that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. See Gaus v. Miles, , 980 F.2d 564, 566-567 (9th Cir. 1992). When the complaint is unclear as to the amount of damages that plaintiff seeks, the defendant must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy requirement is met. Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., 95 F.3d 856, 860 (9th Cir. 1996).

When it is not "facially apparent" from the complaint that the claims likely exceed the required amount, the district court may consider facts set forth in the notice of removal and "summary judgment-type evidence" relevant to the amount in controversy. Luckett v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 171 F.3d 295, 298 (5th Cir. 1999); Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d 373, 377 (9th Cir. 1997) (citing Allen v. R & H Oil & Gas Co., 63 F.3d 1326 (5th Cir. 1995)). Conclusory allegations are insufficient to meet the burden; rather, defendant must state the underlying facts supporting its assertion that the amount in controversy is met. Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004) (allegations on "information and belief" did not prove jurisdictional amount for purposes of removal jurisdiction). The strong presumption against removal jurisdiction necessarily means that 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.

Here, Defendant's blanket assertion that the amount is likely to exceed $75,000 is not enough to ...


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