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Gelasio Salazar and Saad Shammas v. Avis Budget Group

April 22, 2013

GELASIO SALAZAR AND SAAD SHAMMAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHER SIMILARLY SITUATED CURRENT AND FORMER EMPLOYEES OF
DEFENDANTS IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
AVIS BUDGET GROUP, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION; AVIS BUDGET CAR RENTAL, LLC, A DELAWARE LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY (FORMERLY KNOWN AS CENDANT RENTAL SERVICES, INC.); BUDGET RENT A CAR SYSTEM, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION; AND AVIS RENT A CAR SYSTEM, LLC, A DELAWARE LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND (ECF NO. 7)

INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand, which has been fully briefed, (ECF Nos. 7, 11, 12), and which the Court finds suitable for disposition without oral argument, see CivLR 7.1.d.1. After a careful review of the parties' submissions and the record in this matter, and for the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand.

BACKGROUND

On November 27, 2006, Plaintiffs filed a putative wage-and-hour class action complaint in the Superior Court of California, San Diego County. (ECF No. 7-4.) On January 10, 2007, Defendants removed the case to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"), and the case was assigned to Judge Gonzalez.*fn1

On May 14, 2008, Plaintiffs filed their currently operative First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), in which Plaintiffs allege Defendants failed to comply with various California wage-and-hour laws. (ECF No. 7-5.) That same month, Plaintiffs also filed a motion for class certification of Plaintiffs' meal period claims only, which Judge Gonzalez denied, and which the Ninth Circuit declined to review on an interlocutory basis. (ECF Nos. 7-6, 7-7.) Thereafter, on November 20, 2008, Judge Gonzalez remanded the case to the San Diego Superior Court. (ECF No. 7-8.) After remand, the state court stayed the action because the California Supreme Court was set to review Brinker v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004 (2012), a case addressing whether meal period violations are amenable to class treatment.

On April 12, 2012, the California Supreme Court published its opinion in Brinker, and, two weeks later, the state court lifted the stay on Plaintiffs' action. On June 4, 2012, Plaintiffs informed Defendants they intended to seek leave to amend their FAC in conjunction with filing a renewed class certification motion. Because Defendants refused to stipulate to the filing of a second amended complaint ("SAC"), Plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to amend their complaint, including a proposed SAC, on June 13, 2012.

The proposed SAC indicated Plaintiffs would: (1) pursue class-wide claims for meal periods only (and not business reimbursement claims), (2) forego their punitive damages claim, and (3) forego claims for attorneys' fees pursuant to the California Labor Code section 218.5. Indeed, Plaintiffs assert the proposed SAC significantly reduces the potential damages, penalties, interest, and related costs and attorneys' fees to less than $5 million.

On June 15, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a renewed motion for class certification ("Renewed Motion") in light of Brinker, asserting class treatment is appropriate in this case. On June 29, 2012, Defendants used the Renewed Motion as a basis to again remove the case to federal court pursuant to CAFA. On July 20, 2012, Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion to Remand.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Only state court actions that could originally have been filed in federal court can be removed to federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Removal is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1441 et seq. The removal statutes are to be "strictly construe[d] . . . against removal jurisdiction," and the removing party "always has the burden of establishing that removal was proper." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). "Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Id.

CAFA vests district courts with original subject-matter jurisdiction over class actions when: (1) the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5,000,000, exclusive of interests and costs; (2) there is a putative class with more than 100 members; and (3) there exists minimal diversity, i.e., any member of a putative ...


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