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Ron Rich v. Best Buy Stores

September 6, 2012

RON RICH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BEST BUY STORES, L.P., A MINNESOTA LIMITED PARTNERSHIP; BEST BUY CO., INC. WHICH WILL DO BUSINESS IN CALIFORNIA AS MN BEST BUY CO., INC., A MINNESOTA CORPORATION; AND DOES 1--20, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



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

O

JS-6

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND [9]

I.INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Ron Rich moves to remand this action to San Luis Obispo Superior Court. (ECF No. 9.) Having carefully 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. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; L. R. 7-15. The Court concludes that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over this case and therefore REMANDS this actionto the San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

II.FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On May 25, 2012, Rich filed this action in state court for

(1) discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA") under California Government Code section 12940; (2) retaliation in violation of the (3) failure to accommodate under California Government Code section 12940; (4) failure to engage in the interactive process under California Government Code section 12940; (5) wrongful termination; and (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Notice of Removal Ex. A.) Rich contends Best Buy terminated him as an employee, which "constitutes unlawful employment practices in violation of California Government Code § 12940, et seq." (Compl. ¶ 25.) Defendant filed an answer on July 12, 2012, and subsequently removed to this Court on July 13, 2012. (ECF No. 1.) Regarding damages, Rich seeks "compensatory damages for lost wages and future wages, emotional distress damages, punitive damages and attorneys' fees." (Notice of Removal ¶ 20.)

III.LEGAL STANDARD

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject-matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1; 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). However, courts strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction, and "[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (emphasis added). The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1252 (9th Cir. 2006).

Federal courts have original jurisdiction where an action presents a federal question under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or where diversity of citizenship exists under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. To exercise diversity jurisdiction, a federal court must find complete diversity among the adverse parties, and the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Where a plaintiff does not specify a particular damages figure in the state-court complaint, the removing defendant must provide evidence establishing that it is "more likely than not" that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00. Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 1996). Evidence a court may consider includes "facts presented in the removal petition as well as any summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal." Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003).

Additionally, in determining the amount in controversy, the Court may include the request for punitive damages and emotional distress damages if they are recoverable under the applicable law. Gibson v. Chrysler Corp., 261 F.3d 927, 947 (9th Cir. 2001); Simmons v. PCR Tech., 209 F. Supp. 2d 1029, 1033--34 (N.D. Cal. 2002). California law allows the recovery of punitive damages based on claims for violations of FEHA, wrongful termination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Tameny v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 27 Cal. 3d 167, 176 (1980); Simmons, 209 F. Supp. 2d at 1033. To establish emotional distress and punitive damages, "defendant may introduce evidence of jury verdicts in cases involving analogous facts." Simmons, 209 F. Supp. 2d at 1033.

Finally, in ordinary diversity cases, a request for attorney's fees cannot be included in the jurisdictional amount unless an underlying statute authorizes an award of attorney's fees. Lowdermilk, 479 F.3d 994, 1000 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Galt G/S v. JSS Scandinavia, 142 F.3d 1150, 1155--56 (9th Cir. 1998)). But even when including attorneys' fees, a court "cannot base [its] jurisdiction on Defendant's speculation and conjecture." Lowdermilk, 479 F.3d at 1002. Ultimately, the defendant must overcome "the strong presumption against removal jurisdiction" by "setting forth, in the ...


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