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Bishop v. Avis Budget Group, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 14, 2013

JOSEPH BISHOP, Plaintiff,
v.
AVIS BUDGET GROUP, INC., dba AVIS BUDGET CAR RENTAL; TALX CORPORATION, dba UC EXPRESS; AB CAR RENTAL SERVICES, INC.; DOES 1-300, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND AND MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT Dkt. 11, 12

SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG, District Judge.

Plaintiff Joseph Bishop filed the instant wrongful termination action in state court against his former employer, Avis Budget Car Rental, Inc. ("Avis") and/or AB Car Rental Services, Inc. ("AB"), and TALX Corporation dba UC Express ("TALX"). Defendants removed the action under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) and (b). In particular, Defendants assert that two of the four causes of action of the Complaint are preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, and that there is complete diversity between Plaintiff and Defendants.

The parties are presently before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand and Motion to Amend Complaint. Dkt. 11, 12. Having read and considered the papers filed in connection with this matter and being fully informed, the Court hereby DENIES the motions for the reasons set forth below. The Court, in its discretion, finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff worked for "Avis/AB" from April 20, 2005 to January 31, 2012, as a lot coordinator. Compl. § 4, Dkt. 1.[1] On January 1, 2012, Plaintiff was terminated from his position after reporting his involvement in a fight with a co-worker. Id . § 5. During the term of his employment, Plaintiff was subject to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between AB and Teamsters Automotive Employees and Allied Workers, Local Union No. 665. Id . Ex. A (copy of the CBA attached to the Complaint). Among other things, the CBA forbids AB from discharging or suspending any employee "without just cause...." Id . Art. 23, § a.

On January 13, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the San Francisco County Superior Court against Avis, AB and TALX. The complaint alleges four state law causes of action for: (1) Termination in Violation of Public Policy; (2) Breach of Express and Implied Contract of Continued Employment; (3) Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing; and (4) Slander Per Se. On February 8, 2013, Avis and AB, joined by TALX, removed the action to this Court. Notice of Removal, Dkt. 1.

Plaintiff has now filed two related motions; one to remand the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; and the other to amend the pleadings to join California residents Armando Cruz and Loc Huynh as defendants. Plaintiff argues that none of his claims is preempted by the LMRA, and that the joinder of Messrs. Cruz and Huynh will destroy diversity. Defendants oppose both motions. These matters are now fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion for remand is the proper procedure for challenging a removal. Remand may be ordered either for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or for any defect in the removal procedure. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). "A motion to remand the case on the basis of any defect other than lack of subject matter jurisdiction must be made within 30 days after the filing of the notice of removal under section 1446(a)." Id . "[R]emoval statutes are strictly construed against removal." Luther v. Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP , 533 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2008). "The presumption against removal means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Moore-Thomas v. Alaska Airlines, Inc. , 553 F.3d 1241, 1244 (9th Cir. 2009). As such, any doubts regarding the propriety of the removal favor remanding the case. See Gaus v. Miles, Inc. , 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).

III. DISCUSSION

A. OVERVIEW OF THE LMRA

The federal removal statute provides, in pertinent part, that "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). "The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Id . § 1331. The "arising under" qualification of § 1331 confers district courts with jurisdiction to hear "[o]nly those cases in which a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that [1] federal law creates the cause of action or that [2] the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law." Armstrong v. N. Mariana Islands , 576 F.3d 950, 954-55 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotations omitted).

"The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the well-pleaded complaint rule, ' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams , 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); see Hunter v. Philip Morris USA , 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009). A party's assertion of a federal defense, including the defense of preemption, ordinarily will not justify removal of an action to federal court. Caterpillar , 482 U.S. at 393. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has recognized an "independent corollary" to this rule known as the "complete preemption doctrine." Id . This doctrine provides that the preemptive force of certain federal statutes is so "extraordinary" that it "converts an ordinary common-law complaint into one stating a federal claim for the purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule.'" Id . (quoting Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor , 481 U.S. 58, 65 (1987)). "Once an area of state law has been completely preempted, any claim purportedly based on that preempted state law is considered from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law." Id.

The complete preemption doctrine is most often applied to cases involving § 301 of the LMRA. Id . Section 301 confers jurisdiction in the federal district courts over "[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees...." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Section 301 reflects the well-established federal policy of applying a uniform body of law to disputes arising out of labor contracts. Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck , 471 U.S. 202, 209-10 (1985). By enacting this statute, Congress ...


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