United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR REMAND AND REMANDING ACTION TO SAN FRANCISCO SUPERIOR COURT; DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES; AND DISMISSING AS MOOT PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND
SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge.
Plaintiffs have filed a motion to remand this action to state court and a motion for attorneys' fees incurred in bringing this motion to remand. Plaintiffs also move for leave to file an amended complaint. The motion is scheduled for a hearing on March 21, 2014. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument, and hereby VACATES the hearing. Having considered the arguments of the parties and the papers submitted, and for good cause shown, the Court hereby GRANTS plaintiffs' motion for remand and DENIES plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees. Because the Court finds that this action must be remanded to state court, plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend is DISMISSED as moot.
On August 19, 2013, plaintiffs filed a complaint in San Francisco Superior Court against Ignite Restaurant Group and Crab Addison, Inc., collectively referred to as Joe's Crab Shack ("JCS"). The complaint alleges violations of the California Labor Code, violations of the San Francisco Administrative Code, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and violations of the Private Attorney General Act ("PAGA"). Plaintiffs' complaint states that they brought the action on behalf of themselves and on behalf of other similarly situated current and former "aggrieved employees, " collectively referred to as the "kitchen staff" of JCS, located at 245 Jefferson Street, San Francisco. Compl. at ¶ 1. Plaintiffs define the other "aggrieved employees" as other non-exempt employees of defendants, hired to perform food preparation, cooking, cleaning and related duties employed during the four year period prior to the filing of the complaint. Id.
Plaintiffs allege twelve causes of action against defendants. The causes of action include failure to provide: (1) meal and rest breaks; (2) compensation; (3) overtime compensation; (4) reimbursement for the cost of uniforms; (5) unpaid wages and waiting time penalties; (6) itemized wage statements; and (7) sick leave. Plaintiffs also allege causes of action for (8) unfair competition; (9) civil penalties pursuant to the California Labor Code; (10) civil penalties pursuant to PAGA; (11) wrongful termination in violation of public policy regarding plaintiff Samir Roque; and (12) wrongful termination in violation of public policy regarding all plaintiffs except Samir Roque. Plaintiffs do not specify an amount of damages in regard to any of their claims.
On October 31, 2013, defendants filed a notice of removal and motion for removal to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA"), and in the alternative, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and § 1446(b). Docket No. 1, Notice of Removal. Plaintiffs now move to remand this case to state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on both grounds asserted by defendants and request that the Court award attorneys' fees and costs incurred in connection with the motion to remand. Plaintiffs also seek leave to file an amended complaint.
When a case "of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction" is initially brought in state court, the defendant may remove it to federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). There are two bases for federal subject matter jurisdiction: (1) federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and (2) diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. A district court has original diversity jurisdiction where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum of $75, 000, and is between, inter alia, citizens of different States, or citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. A district court can also obtain original diversity jurisdiction pursuant to CAFA. Serrano v. 180 Connect, Inc., 478 F.3d 1018, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 2007). CAFA jurisdiction is established when (1) the complaint is a class action; (2) the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5, 000, 000, exclusive of interest and costs; (3) the aggregate number of proposed plaintiffs is 100 or greater; and (4) any member of the plaintiff class is a citizen of a State different from any defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2).
A motion to remand is the proper procedure for challenging removal. Remand to state court may be ordered either for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or for any defect in removal procedure. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The court may remand sua sponte or on motion of a party, and the parties who invoked the federal court's removal jurisdiction have the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. See Enrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97 (U.S.1921)). "If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). To protect the jurisdiction of state courts, removal jurisdiction is strictly construed in favor of remand . Harris v. Bankers Life and Cas. Co., 425 F.3d 689, 698 (9th Cir. 2005). Any doubt as to the right of removal must be resolved in favor of remand to state court . Gaus v. Miles, 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).
I. Federal Diversity Jurisdiction
Plaintiffs argue that federal diversity jurisdiction fails on both grounds asserted by defendants. First, plaintiffs argue that defendants fail to establish three out of the four requirements for CAFA jurisdiction. Plaintiffs argue (1) their complaint is not a class action; (2) they do not plead $5, 000, 000 as the amount in controversy; and (3) they do not plead of class size of 100 plaintiffs. Second, plaintiffs argue that defendants fail to establish diversity jurisdiction for the individual plaintiffs because they have not shown that the amount in controversy for each plaintiff exceeds $75, 000 as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Defendants argue that removal is proper under CAFA because (1) plaintiffs' complaint is a class action brought on behalf of defendants' current and former kitchen staff; (2) the amount in controversy is at least $5, 366, 739; and (3) the class includes 183 current and former hourly-paid kitchen staff of JCS located at 245 Jefferson Street, San Francisco. To support these allegations, defendants submitted a declaration from Patricia Simpson, JCS's Senior Human Resources Director, providing wage and hour information regarding the kitchen staff. Defendants also include a declaration from attorney Shane Sagheb, which they use to calculate the ...