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Rosa Tovar, An Individual; Alexander Saenz, and Individual v. Western Reserve Life Assurance Co. of Ohio

March 22, 2012

ROSA TOVAR, AN INDIVIDUAL; ALEXANDER SAENZ, AND INDIVIDUAL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
WESTERN RESERVE LIFE ASSURANCE CO. OF OHIO, AN OHIO CORPORATION; ANA FUENTES, AN INDIVIDUAL; AND DOES 1-100, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND

[Dkt. No. 18]

Presently before the court is Plaintiffs' motion to remand this case to state court for want of federal jurisdiction. After reviewing the papers submitted by the parties, the court GRANTS the motion and adopts the following Order.

I. Background

On April 20, 2010, Mario Tovar ("Decedent") met with Ana Fuentes ("Fuentes"), a licensed insurance agent, to purchase life insurance coverage. (First Amended Complaint ("FAC") at ¶ 9).

Through Fuentes, the Decedent executed and provided the necessary application, and paid the initial premium to Western Reserve Life ("WRL"), a corporation engaged in the marketing and selling of life insurance policies. (FAC at ¶¶ 8,17). The policy designated Rosa Tovar, Alexander Saenz, and Erika Tovar, respectively the Decedent's wife, step-son, and daughter, as beneficiaries. (Id. at ¶ 1). The very next day, Decedent was shot and killed in the jewelry store he owned and operated. (Id. at ¶ 19). The Decedent's beneficiaries reported his death to WRL and have requested payment of all the benefits under the life insurance policy. (Id. at ¶ 22). WRL, however, has refused to pay. (Id. at ¶ 3)

On March 3, 2011, Rosa Tovar, Alexander Saenz, and Erika Tovar, the Plaintiffs*fn1 , filed suit in state court against WRL and Fuentes. The FAC alleges various causes of action under California law, including (1) Breach of Contract against WRL (FAC at ¶ 20-25);

(2) Breach of Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing against WRL (Id. at ¶ 26-33); (3) Fraud and Deceit*fn2 against WRL (Id. at ¶ 34-41); (4) Unfair Competition pursuant to California's Unfair Competition Law against WRL (Id. at ¶ 42-46); and (5) Professional Negligence against Fuentes (Id. at ¶ 47-56).

On April 8, 2011, Defendants removed the suit to federal court on grounds of diversity of citizenship. Plaintiffs now bring this motion to remand, arguing that Defendants cannot maintain a suit grounded in diversity for lack of complete diversity.*fn3

The court agrees.

II. Legal Standard

A defendant may remove a case from state court to federal court if the case could have originally been filed in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); see also Snow v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.2d 787, 789 (9th Cir. 1977). The removal statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction, and federal jurisdiction must be rejected if any doubt exists as to the propriety of removal. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).

District courts have original jurisdiction "of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum of value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between citizens of different States." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). A diversity action may only be removed to federal court where there is complete diversity of citizenship. Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1043 (9th Cir. 2009).

Nevertheless, "one exception to the requirement of complete diversity is where a non-diverse defendant has been fraudulently joined." Morris v. Princess Cruises, Inc., 236 F.3d 1061, 1067 (9th Cir. 2001)(quotation marks omitted); Ritchey v. Upjohn Drug Co., 139 F.3d 1313 (9th Cir. 1998) (holding that fraudulently joined defendants will not defeat removal on diversity grounds). "[T]here is a general presumption against fraudulent joinder," Hamilton Materials, Inc. v. Dow Chem. Corp., 494 F.3d 1203, 1206 (9th Cir. 2007), but fraudulent joinder will be found "[i]f the plaintiff fails to ...


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