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Trahan v. U.S. Bank National Association

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 13, 2014

JERRY TRAHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REMAND AND SCHEDULING CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

JEFFREY S. WHITE, District Judge

INTRODUCTION

Now before the Court for consideration is the Motion to Remand filed by Plaintiff Jerry Trahan ("Trahan"). Having considered the parties' papers, relevant legal authority, the record in this case, and having had the benefit of oral argument, the Court HEREBY DENIES the motion.

BACKGROUND

On May 28, 2009, Trahan filed a complaint in Alameda County Superior Court, in which he sought relief on behalf of himself and a putative class, defined as "[a]ll current and former California based employees of U.S. Bank, N.A. with the title Business Banking Officer, ' including trainees for the Business Banking Offer [ sic ] position, however titled, who worked at any time from September 27, 2005 up to the time the class is certified." ( See Docket No. 1, First Notice of Removal, Ex. A (Complaint, ¶ 15).)

Trahan's allegations against U.S. Bank arise following a judgment in Duran v. U.S. National Bank Association, Alameda Co. Sup.Ct. Case No. 2001-035537, in which that court determined that Defendant, U.S. National Bank Association ("U.S. Bank"), illegally mis-classified employees with the title Business Banking Officer or Small Business Banking Officer as exempt employees. According to Trahan, U.S. Bank "has not reclassified the Business Banking Officers" as nonexempt employees and, as a result, U.S. Bank has failed to pay Trahan and the putative class overtime and rest and meal breaks to which they are entitled. Trahan also contends that U.S. Bank willfully failed to pay earned and unpaid wages to Trahan and class members upon termination of employment. ( See Compl. ¶¶ 12-14, 22-43.) Based on these allegations, Trahan asserted claims for violations of California Labor Code section 1194, violations of California Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq., violations of California Labor Code section 203, and Conversion. Trahan also sought statutory penalties under California Labor Code sections 210, 226.3, 558, and 1174.5.

On July 9, 2009, U.S. Bank removed the action to this Court and argued that subject matter jurisdiction existed based on the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"), 28 U.S.C. section 1331(d)(2)(A), and based on diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 1332(a). Trahan subsequently moved to remand and argued that he had expressly alleged that the class consisted of less than 100 class members and that damages did not exceed $5, 000, 000. He also argued that damages for his individual claims did not exceed $75, 000. ( See Compl. ¶ 4.)

On November 30, 2009, the Court granted the motion to remand. (Docket No. 56.) In that Order, the Court concluded that the preponderance of the evidence standard applied, and it determined that U.S. Bank has not met its burden to show the amount in controversy was equal to or exceeded $5, 000, 000.

U.S. Bank sought leave to file an interlocutory appeal, which the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted. (Docket No. 62.) On May 28, 2010, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the Court's Order granting the motion to remand and stated that Trahan's

wage and hour claims are inherently tied to employment contracts Trahan and the class had with U.S. Bank. Such claims cannot support punitive damages under California law.... Trahan stipulated at oral argument that in light of these authorities... he cannot, and will not, attempt to, collect punitive damages or pursue a conversion claim in this case. Once the claim for punitive damages and conversion were withdrawn by Trahan, for himself and the class, U.S. Bank conceded its inability to show that the jurisdictional threshold is satisfied.

(Docket No. 65, Opinion at 3.)

After the case was remanded, Trahan filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") in state court. Trahan dismissed, without prejudice, the claims for conversion, meal and rest break violations, and for statutory penalties based on Labor Code sections 210, 226.3, 558 and 1174.5. Trahan also narrowed the class definition to remove "trainees." Finally, Trahan alleged that "[t]he amount in controversy, inclusive of damages, restitution, attorneys fees, penalties and the value of injunctive and declaratory relief and exclusive of interests of costs, does not exceed $5, 000, 000." ( See Second Notice of Removal, Docket No. 68-3 at ECF pages 38-47 (FAC ¶¶ 4, 15, 22-34, Prayer for Relief ¶ 2).)

Thereafter, a privacy notice was sent to approximately 170 putative class members, and the parties engaged in discovery. On January 12, 2012, Trahan filed a motion for class certification, which included declarations from 11 class members that described the number of overtime hours they had worked. U.S. Bank opposed the motion, and the parties continued to engage in discovery. On August 28, 2012, the state court granted Trahan's motion for class certification, and certified a class of BBOs who worked for U.S. Bank in California between September 27, 2005 and June 30, 2009.

U.S. Bank subsequently moved to stay, and the stated court denied that motion. It also sought appellate review of both orders, but the Court of Appeal denied the writ. The parties then continued to dispute the manner in which the case would proceed in state court, and U.S. Bank sought ...


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