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Kenton Bryce Ritz, et al v. Mountain Lifeflight Inc.

April 16, 2012

KENTON BRYCE RITZ, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MOUNTAIN LIFEFLIGHT INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Kenton Bryce Ritz's, through his guardian Ad Litem Brandy Miller Speiker, and Joe Ritz's and Sue Ritz's, as co-administrators of the Estate of Christopher Ritz, (collectively "Plaintiffs") Motion to Remand (Doc. # 20).*fn1 Only Defendant American Eurocopter Corporation ("AEC") opposes the motion (Doc. # 22).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs' allegations concern a helicopter crash on November 14, 2009 which resulted in Christopher Ritz's death. The 4 helicopter was allegedly owned and operated by Defendant Mountain Lifeflight ("MLF"), a California corporation. Plaintiffs assert 6 causes of action based on negligence and strict liability against 7 the various defendants seeking to recover for Christopher Ritz's 8 death. AEC removed this action (Doc. #1) from the Sacramento 9

County Superior Court, State of California, claiming federal question and federal diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs now seek to remand the action to state court, claiming that federal question jurisdiction does not exist.

II. OPINION

A. Legal Standard for Motion to Remand

As this is a motion to remand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), the issue to be decided is the Court's subject matter jurisdiction or lack thereof. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) ("If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded."). The court must remand an action sua sponte if it determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See Kelton Arms Condominium Owners Ass'n v. Homestead Ins. Co., 346 F.3d 1190, 1192 (9th Cir.2003) ("[W]e have held that the district court must remand if it lacks jurisdiction.") (citing Sparta Surgical Corp. v. Nat'l Ass'n Sec.

Dealers, Inc., 159 F.3d 1209, 1211 (9th Cir.1998)). The removal statute explains when removal is proper:

Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of 4 which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant 5 or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the 6 place where such action is pending.

28 .S.C. § 1441(a). 8

The Ninth Circuit "strictly construe[s] the removal statute 9 against removal jurisdiction." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.1992) (citing Boggs v. Lewis, 863 F.2d 662, 663 (9th Cir.1988); Takeda v. Northwestern National Life Insurance Co., 765 F.2d 815, 818 (9th Cir.1985)). Thus, "[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Id. (citing Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir.1979)). "The 'strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Id. (citing Nishimoto v. Federman-Bachrach & Associates, 903 F.2d 709, 712 n. 3 (9th Cir.1990); Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir.1988)).

B. Diversity Jurisdiction

AEC opposes remand on the ground that defendant MLF, the only defendant that is a citizen of California, is a fraudulently joined or "sham" defendant. AEC contends that the only claim against MLF, as Christopher Ritz's employer, is through California's worker compensation system, making Plaintiffs' present suit against MLF invalid. Plaintiffs respond that Christopher Ritz was employed by South Lassen EMS doing business as Plumas EMS, and that Christopher Ritz was not employed by MLF at the time of the crash. Therefore MLF is a proper defendant and complete diversity does not exist.

"In order for diversity jurisdiction to be present, there must 4 be complete diversity such that each of the plaintiffs [is] a 5 citizen of a different state than each of the defendants." Fisher 6 v. Paul ...


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