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Denton v. G4s Secure Solutions (USA) Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 22, 2014

TIMOTHY DENTON, Plaintiff,
v.
G4S SECURE SOLUTIONS (USA) INC., and DOES 1-100, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER

KIMBERLY J. MUELLER, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on plaintiff Timothy Denton's Motion to Remand this case to the Sacramento County Superior Court. (Pl.'s Mot. Remand, ECF 8.) Defendant G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc. ("G4S") opposes the motion. (Def.'s Opp'n, ECF 11.) The court decided the motion without a hearing. As explained below, the court GRANTS plaintiff's Motion to Remand.

I. INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On August 2, 2013, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Sacramento County Superior Court against defendant alleging four causes of action: (1) retaliation in violation of California Government Code ("Government Code") section 12940(h); (2) failure to prevent retaliation in violation of Government Code section 12940(k); (3) failure to pay overtime wages in violation of California Labor Code ("Labor Code") sections 510 and 1198; and (4) failure to provide accurate wage statements in violation of Labor Code section 226. (Def.'s Notice of Removal, Compl., Ex. A ("Compl."), ECF 1.) In addition, for the third and fourth causes of action, plaintiff seeks civil penalties under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 ("PAGA"), Labor Code section 2699. (Compl. at 13.) On September 25, 2013, defendant filed an answer. (ECF 1, Answer, Ex. B.)

On October 1, 2013, defendant removed the case to this court, invoking the court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). (ECF 1.) On November 22, 2013, plaintiff filed the instant motion to remand. (ECF 8.) Defendant filed an opposition on November 22, 2013. (ECF 11.) Plaintiff has not filed a reply.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The removal statute provides: "[A]ny civil action brought in a [s]tate court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction" may be removed by a defendant to a federal district court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). One situation where federal courts have original jurisdiction is where "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs" and where there is complete diversity between the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

The Ninth Circuit "strictly construe[s] the removal statute against removal jurisdiction." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Boggs v. Lewis, 863 F.2d 662, 663 (9th Cir. 1988); Takeda v. Northwestern Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 765 F.2d 815, 818 (9th Cir. 1985)). "Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Id. (citing Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979)). There is a "strong presumption" against removal jurisdiction, which "means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Id. Furthermore, "removal jurisdiction is strictly construed in favor of remand." Nasrawi v. Buck Consultants, LLC, No. 1:09-CV-02061-OWW-GSA, 2011 WL 846151, at *6 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 8, 2011) (citing Harris v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 425 F.3d 689, 698 (9th Cir. 2005)). Accordingly, "the court resolves all ambiguity in favor of remand to state court." Hunter v. Phillip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009).

III. DISCUSSION

Here, the parties do not dispute the diversity of citizenship requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Plaintiff is domiciled in California (Compl. ¶ 1) while defendant is incorporated and has its principal place of business in Florida. (ECF 1, Ex. C ¶¶ 3-4.) Hence, the sole jurisdictional issue is whether defendant, the removing party, has met its burden of establishing the amount in controversy is greater than the jurisdictional requirement of $75, 000. Accordingly, the court addresses that question only.

Plaintiff argues defendant does not demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional requirement. (ECF 8 at 2.) Plaintiff reasons that defendant's conclusory statements and mere averments are not sufficient to meet the preponderance of the evidence standard. ( Id. at 3.)

Defendant responds it has met its burden in that plaintiff's causes of action make plaintiff eligible to recover individual civil penalties "in the amount of $61, 450" if he prevails. (ECF 11 at 4.) The remaining amount, defendant argues, can be satisfied "by looking to [p]laintiff's prayer for punitive damages, attorneys' fees, unpaid overtime wages, and injunctive relief." ( Id. )

When the complaint as here does not specify the amount of damages sought, the burden is on the removing defendant to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy is satisfied. Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 1996). That is, the removing defendant must provide evidence establishing that it is "more likely than not" that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount. Id.

The amount in controversy requirement is determined by the amount of damages involved in the action. Hunt v. Washington State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 347-48 (1977). This may include general, special, punitive damages, attorney's fees, and costs of equitable relief. See Conrad Associates v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co., 994 F.Supp. 1196, 1198 (N.D. Cal. 1998) ("The amount in controversy includes claims for general and special damages (excluding costs and interests), ...


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