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Alatraqchi v. Uber Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 22, 2013

RASHID ALATRAQCHI, Plaintiff,
v.
UBER TECHNOLOGIES, INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (Dkt. No. 8); DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND (Dkt. No. 14)

JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY, Magistrate Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Rashid Alatraqchi, a livery car and taxi driver, brings this action alleging violation of civil rights and other claims against Defendants Uber Technologies, Inc. ("Uber") and Scott Munro. Now pending before the Court are Defendants' motion to dismiss, (Dkt. No. 8), to which Plaintiff filed an untimely opposition, (Dkt. No. 22), and Plaintiff's motion to remand (Dkt. No. 14). After carefully considering the parties' pleadings, and having had the benefit of oral argument on August 22, 2013, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion and DENIES Plaintiff's motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a naturalized United States citizen born in Iraq. (Dkt. No. 1 at 17.) He is a Shiia Muslim, who came to the United States in 1992 under the "United Nations Refugee Relocation and Asylum Program." ( Id. ) Plaintiff has lived in San Francisco since coming to the United States. ( Id. at 18.)

Plaintiff, a limousine and taxi driver since the mid-to-late 1990s, was the sole proprietor of Charming City Limousine Company from January 2010 to summer 2012, during which time Plaintiff's relationship with Defendants began and ended. ( Id. ) Plaintiff was "employed by" and "entered into [a] business arrangement" with Uber in late 2011, whereby Plaintiff was allowed access to Uber's mobile application that connects drivers to fares seeking car service.[1] ( Id. at 18, 28.) Plaintiff paid a $300 deposit for the use of an iPhone to obtain "calls" from Uber. ( Id. at 19.) Plaintiff owned the vehicle he drove while "working for" Uber, and had purchased the vehicle's insurance coverage and filed "all of the necessary documentation with the State and local agencies governing this industry." ( Id. ) Defendant Munro, an Uber employee, "personally interviewed" Plaintiff and inspected Plaintiff's limousine. ( Id. at 18.)

Plaintiff's time with Uber was short-from December 29, 2011 to January 12, 2012. ( Id. ) During this time, which spanned part of the holiday season, Plaintiff received a "customer friendly" ranking of 4.2 out of 5 stars. ( Id. at 22.) No one processed a claim against Plaintiff, he did not have a bad reputation, he was involved in no traffic accidents, received no traffic citations, even a parking ticket. ( Id. at 24.) He neither missed nor was late for any assigned pick up, and his vehicle was in perfect working order every shift. ( Id. ) Each and every client that he carried exited the limo in "cheerful good spirits." ( Id. )

Nonetheless, Plaintiff's relationship with Uber was terminated. On January 12, 2012, Plaintiff called Uber regarding the iPhone that belonged to Uber. ( Id. ) Plaintiff was concerned about "minor mishaps" with the phone, such as its failure to receive any phone calls. ( Id. ) Uber told Plaintiff to bring it to its office to have it examined.[2] ( Id. ) When Plaintiff arrived at the office, Defendant Munro took the phone "right there on the spot" and told Plaintiff that "they don't need me anymore" and asked Plaintiff to leave. ( Id. ) Plaintiff asked why, and Munro responded that Plaintiff was an "aggressive driver." ( Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).) He also stated that there was not enough business at the time. ( Id. ) Regarding Plaintiff's driving, Plaintiff asked Munro to show him any documentation, such as customer complaints, that could verify Plaintiff's poor driving. ( Id. at 25.) Munro declined to say anything or show Plaintiff any documents. ( Id. ) Munro claimed that Plaintiff "lost stars, " but wouldn't specify. ( Id. )

After his relationship with Uber ended, Plaintiff and Uber continued to interact regarding monies Plaintiff believed remained owing to him. Although Uber has presented Plaintiff invoices it claims shows that he has been fully paid, Plaintiff maintains that he was underpaid.

Plaintiff claims that Uber "stole" his money because he is "foreign." ( Id. at 23.) Plaintiff also claims that he called Defendant Munro on many occasions regarding his "wrongful termination, " but he did not respond because Plaintiff is "foreign from Iraq, and Shiia Moslem and Arab. He felt that [Plaintiff] [did not] have popular support because the WAR in Iraq." ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims that "[i]t seemed like Mr. Scott Munro had hatred towards Iraqis or Shiite Muslims. [Plaintiff] heard from other drivers that Mr. Munro is a JEW." ( Id. at 22.) Plaintiff alleges that his dismissal was based on "Anti-Iraqi, Anti-Shiia" discrimination. ( Id. at 71.)

Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants in San Francisco Superior Court on January 10, 2013, and Defendants removed the case to federal court seven months later. Plaintiff's form complaint and attached declaration allege the following five purported causes of action: 1) civil rights discrimination; 2) wrongful termination; 3) fraud; 4) maintaining a hostile work environment; and 5) work-related stress.

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand

Defendants, as the party seeking removal to this federal court, bear the burden of establishing that subject matter jurisdiction exists, and courts strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566-67 (9th Cir. 1992). Removal jurisdiction may be based on diversity of citizenship or on the existence of a federal question. 28 U.S.C. ยง 1441. The Court has reviewed the Notice of Removal and has determined that federal question jurisdiction does exist.

"Federal question jurisdiction exists only when a federal question exists on the face of a well-pleaded complaint." ING Bank, FSB v. Pineda, 2012 WL 2077311 *1 (N.D. Cal. June 8, 2012). In Plaintiff's first cause of action for civil rights discrimination Plaintiff states that "I[n] the United States constitution... it is illegal to discriminate." ( See Dkt. No. 1 at 21.) This statement constitutes a federal question on the face of Plaintiff's well-pled Complaint, and Defendants' removal was therefore proper.

Although Plaintiff's motion to remand does not address the Court's federal question jurisdiction-it focuses on diversity jurisdiction, which was not Defendants' basis for removal- Plaintiff argued at the hearing that he did not intend for the Complaint to contain federal claims. As explained above, the Court disagrees. Because the Court is dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint with leave to amend, he, as the master of his complaint, may amend his Complaint to allege whatever claims he wishes. If Plaintiff seeks to allege only state-law claims, he should clearly do so in any amended complaint.

Plaintiff's motion to remand is accordingly DENIED. If Plaintiff files an amended complaint, the parties shall meet and confer regarding whether the Court has jurisdiction over this action in light of the claims in the amended complaint. If Defendants agree there is no longer any basis for federal jurisdiction, the Court encourages the parties to stipulate to a remand of this action to state court.

II. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

A. Legal Standard

Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), [3] a district court must dismiss an action if it lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). "Subject matter jurisdiction can never be forfeited or waived and federal courts have a continuing independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists." Leeson v. Transamerica Disability Income Plan, 671 F.3d 969, 976 (9th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A party challenging the court's subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may bring a facial challenge or a factual challenge. See White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000). A facial attack is one where "the challenger asserts that the allegations contained in a complaint are insufficient on their face to invoke federal jurisdiction." Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). In evaluating such a challenge, the court accepts the factual allegations in the complaint as true. See Miranda v. Reno, 238 F.3d 1156, 1157 n.1 (9th Cir. 2001). In contrast, where the defendant challenges the factual basis underlying the allegations, the court need not accept the allegations as true and may instead make factual determinations. White, 227 F.3d at 1242. "In ruling on a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, the district court is ordinarily free to hear evidence regarding jurisdiction and to rule on that issue prior to trial, resolving factual disputes where necessary." Augustine v. United States, 704 F.2d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 1983) (internal citation omitted). When making such a ruling, the district court may review evidence beyond the complaint without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch., 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n.2 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing White, 227 F.3d at 1242). The burden of proof on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is on a party asserting jurisdiction. Sopcak v. Northern Mountain Helicopter Serv., 52 F.3d 817, 818 (9th Cir. 1995).

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of a complaint as failing to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A facial plausibility standard is not a "probability requirement" but mandates "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted). For purposes of ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court "accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). "[D]ismissal may be based on either a lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989) ("Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law.").

Even under the liberal pleading standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), under which a party is only required to make "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " a "pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.) "[C]onclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss." Adams v. Johnson, 355 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011) ("[A]llegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively"), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 2101 (2012). The court must be able to "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for ...


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