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Andersen v. Schwan Food Co.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 2, 2013

KELLY ANDERSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE SCHWAN FOOD COMPANY and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND

PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, District Judge.

On July 31, 2013, plaintiff's motion to remand came on for hearing before this court. Plaintiff Kelly Andersen ("plaintiff" or "Andersen") appeared by his counsel Michael C. Righetti. Defendant Schwan Food Company ("defendant" or "Schwan") appeared by its counsel, Alan L. Rupe. Having carefully reviewed the parties' papers and considered the arguments of counsel and the relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS Andersen's motion to remand as follows.

BACKGROUND

In April 2013, Andersen filed a class action complaint against Schwan in state court, alleging: (1) violation of Labor Code § 1194; (2) violation of Business and Professions Code ("B & P") § 17200, et seq.; (3) failure to provide mandated meal periods and rest breaks; (4) failure to indemnify employees for expenditures and/or losses; (5) failure to make payments within the required time; (6) private attorney general act ("PAGA") penalties; and (7) failure to furnish accurate wage and hour statements.

Andersen pleads that Schwan engaged in a "uniform policy and systematic scheme of wage abuse" against its Route Sales Representatives ("RSRs") in California. Specifically, Andersen alleges that the scheme involved, among other things, "categorically misclassifying the Route Sales Representatives position as exempt' for the purposes of the payment of overtime compensation and minimum wage, " denying RSRs meal and rest breaks mandated under California law, failing to indemnify RSRs for business cellular phone expenses, failing to pay former RSRs owed wages within 72 hours of termination, and failing to provide RSRs with timely and accurate wage and hour statements.

Further, Andersen claims in his complaint that "[t]he total damages for the entire case [do] not exceed $5, 000, 000.00." Compl. at 2. However, on May 24, 2013, Schwan filed a notice of removal pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA") and had the case removed to this court.

On June 25, 2013, Andersen filed the present motion to remand the case back to state court. The parties do not dispute that CAFA's minimal diversity and minimal class size requirements are met. Andersen seeks remand solely on the basis that Schwan has failed to make a sufficient showing that the amount in controversy satisfies the $5, 000, 000 minimum required by CAFA for federal jurisdiction.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

"[A]ny 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... to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust , 463 U.S. 1, 7-8 (1983) (citation omitted). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1441. However, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am. , 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).

Accordingly, the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction for purposes of removal is on the party seeking removal, and the removal statute is construed strictly against removal jurisdiction. Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co. , 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004). See also 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." Gaus , 980 F.2d at 566.

CAFA provides that district courts have original jurisdiction over any class action in which (1) the amount in controversy exceeds five million dollars, (2) any plaintiff class member is a citizen of a state different from any defendant, (3) the primary defendants are not states, state officials, or other government entities against whom the district court may be foreclosed from ordering relief, and (4) the number of plaintiffs in the class is at least 100. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d)(2), (d)(5). Further, "under CAFA the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction remains, as before, on the proponent of federal jurisdiction." Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chemical Co. , 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006).

The Ninth Circuit has held that if it is "unclear or ambiguous from the face of a state-court complaint whether the requisite amount in controversy is pled, " a "preponderance of the evidence" standard applies. Guglielmino v. McKee Foods, Inc. , 506 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co. , 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 1996)). Further, the preponderance standard applies where the complaint merely states that "damages" are less than $5, 000, 000, as attorneys' fees are included in the amount in controversy but are not included in a calculation of damages. See Guglielmino , 506 F.3d at 700 (complaint is silent to amount in controversy when it only claims that "damages" are less than $5, 000, 000).

B. Andersen's Motion to Remand

As stated above, the parties' only dispute is whether Schwan has shown, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the $5, ...


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