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Stafford v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 28, 2014

RICHARD STAFFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
DOLLAR TREE STORES, INC. and DOES 1 through 50, Inclusive, [1] Defendant.

ORDER

KIMBERLY J. MUELLER, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on plaintiff's renewed motion to remand filed on November 7, 2013. (ECF No. 46.) The motion was decided without a hearing. Plaintiff's motion and the defendant's opposition present a procedural question regarding the law-of-the-case doctrine: Is an alternative basis for upholding subject matter jurisdiction the law of the case? After carefully considering the parties' briefing, the applicable law, and the entire record, for the reasons below, the court answers this question in the affirmative, and concludes the law-of-the-case doctrine bars reconsideration of the prior order denying plaintiff's motion for remand and, therefore, DENIES plaintiff's renewed motion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This is a wage and hour employment class action originally filed in state court, and removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA"), Pub. L. 109-2, 119 Stat. 4 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 28 U.S.C.). Defendant Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. ("Dollar Tree") is a discount retail store with many locations throughout California. Plaintiff was an employee of Dollar Tree, and he sued initially, on behalf of himself and similarly situated employees, alleging Dollar Tree "decreased its employment-related costs at its facilities... to increase... productivity and profits by systematically violating" state and federal wage and hour laws. (Notice of Removal, Ex. A, Compl. 2:1-20, ECF No. 1.)

The operative complaint at the time of removal was plaintiff's[2] First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). For reasons explained below, the specific claims asserted therein inform the court's decision on whether the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million for CAFA purposes. In the First Amended Complaint, plaintiff asserted the following claims:

(1) failure to provide meal periods;
(2) failure to provide rest periods;
(3) failure to pay minimum and regular wages;
(4) failure to pay overtime wages;
(5) failure to maintain accurate records;

(6) failure to provide and maintain itemized wage statements;

(7) failure to timely pay wages due during employment;
(8) failure to timely pay wages due upon separation;
(9) violation of Business & Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq.; and
(10) Private Attorneys General Act ("PAGA") claims.

(Notice of Removal, Ex. C, FAC at 1.)

Defendant removed the case based on the allegations contained in the First Amended Complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on February 5, 2013. (Notice of Removal ¶¶ 5, 12.) Defendant asserted removal jurisdiction under both CAFA, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d), and under ordinary diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). ( Id. at 2.)

After the case was removed to federal court, plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint in which he omitted the class action allegations and asserted only PAGA claims. (Second Am. Compl. ("SAC"), ECF No. 12.) Plaintiff ...


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