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Villa v. United Site Services of California, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 4, 2013

NELSON GONZALEZ VILLA, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED SITE SERVICES OF CALIFORNIA, INC, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND Re: ECF No. 3

JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

In this putative class action for violations of California's labor laws, Plaintiff Villa moves to remand the action to the Superior Court of Santa Clara County on the ground that the action fails to satisfy the jurisdictional requirements of 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(d). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Nelson G. Villa, a citizen of California, filed this putative class action in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County. Not. of Removal, ECF No. 1. Defendant United, a citizen of California, removed the action under 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(d), as amended by the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"). Id.

Villa asserts three claims against United: (1) failure to provide rest breaks under California Labor Code Section 226.7; (2) failure to pay wages at the time of discharge under California Labor Code Section 203; and (3) failure to pay rest period premiums under California's Unfair Competition Law. Id., Ex. 1, Compl.

Villa brings these claims on behalf of himself and the following class of individuals: "All current and former service technicians and pick-up delivery drivers of Defendant working within the State of California at any time during the period beginning four years before the filing of the initial complain, who worked for shifts of greater than three and one-half (3 1/2) hours and who were denied rest breaks, who were denied compensation, including premium pay on a daily basis, and whose premium payments were delayed after their employment was terminated." Id . ¶ 18.

Villa now moves to remand this action on the basis that removal under Section 1332(d) was improper in part because the complaint asserts "only state law claims and there is no minimal diversity." Mot. at 11, ECF No. 3.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"A civil action in state court may be removed to federal district court if the district court had original jurisdiction' over the matter." Lowdermilk v. United States Bank Nat'l Ass'n , 479 F.3d 994, 997 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)). "As amended by CAFA, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d) vests district courts with original jurisdiction of any civil action in which, inter alia, the amount in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5, 000, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and in which the aggregate number of proposed plaintiffs is 100 or greater, and any member of the plaintiff class is a citizen of a state different from any defendant." Id . (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The burden of establishing removal jurisdiction under CAFA is on the proponent of federal jurisdiction. Id . A district court must "strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction." Gaus v. Miles, Inc. , 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

The Court concludes that United has not met its burden to establish that minimal diversity exists under Section 1332(d).

Minimal diversity under Section 1332(d) exists when "any member of a d ass of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(A). Because United is a citizen of California, minimal diversity would exist in this action if at least one putative class member is not a citizen of California.

United alleges in the Notice of Removal that "[a]t least one purported class member is not a citizen of California." Not. of Removal ¶ 6, ECF No. 1. In its Opposition, United states that at least two putative class members are not citizens of California and that "there are likely others but this showing is sufficient for purposes of CAFA." Opp'n at 3, ECF No. 10. In support of this contention, United submitted the declarations of two of its lawyers.

In the first declaration, Susan Bishop states that she had a telephone conversation with Miriam Coehlo, a former employee of United, during which Coehlo informed Bishop that she moved to Kansas in 2009 and that "she was moving to Oklahoma the following week." Bishop Decl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 14. Bishop further states that "Westlaw shows [Coehlo's] address to be in Kansas" and that another Westlaw search revealed that another former employee of United named Isaias Canseco has an address in Texas. Id . ¶¶ 2, 3 ("As confirmation of the address ...


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