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Perez v. Saks & Co.

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 14, 2014

NICK PEREZ, Plaintiff,
SAKS & COMPANY, et al., Defendants.


PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Nick Perez's motion to remand came on for hearing before this court on August 13, 2014. Plaintiff Nick Perez ("plaintiff") appeared through his counsel, Jill Parker. Defendant Saks & Company ("defendant") appeared through its counsel, Jennifer Zargarof. Having read the papers filed in conjunction with the motion and carefully considered the arguments and relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS plaintiff's motion to remand as follows.


Plaintiff filed this putative class action in San Francisco Superior Court on April 24, 2014, alleging that defendant failed to pay him and other employees all minimum and overtime wages, failed to provide meal and rest periods, and "otherwise failed to treat them in the manner required by California wage and hour laws." Plaintiff seeks to represent a class of "all current and former California-based hourly-paid or non-exempt individuals employed by any of the defendants within the state of California at a Saks Fifth Avenue' store at any time during the period from four years preceding the filing of this complaint to final judgment."

The complaint asserts ten causes of action: (1) unpaid overtime, (2) unpaid meal period premiums, (3) unpaid rest period premiums, (4) unpaid minimum wages, (5) final wages not timely paid, (6) wages not timely paid during employment, (7) non-compliant wage statements, (8) failure to keep requisite payroll records, (9) unreimbursed business expenses, and (10) violation of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200.

Defendant removed the case to this court on May 30, 2014, based on this court's alleged jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"). On June 12, 2014, plaintiff filed the present motion to remand, arguing that defendant had not established that CAFA's $5, 000, 000 amount in controversy requirement had been met.[1]


A. Legal Standard

"[A]ny civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant... to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust , 463 U.S. 1, 7-8 (1983) (citation omitted). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1441. However, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See, e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am. , 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).

Accordingly, the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction for purposes of removal is on the party seeking removal, and the removal statute is construed strictly against removal jurisdiction. Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co. , 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004). See also Gaus v. Miles, Inc. , 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). "Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus , 980 F.2d at 566.

CAFA provides that district courts have original jurisdiction over any class action in which (1) the amount in controversy exceeds five million dollars, (2) any plaintiff class member is a citizen of a state different from any defendant, (3) the primary defendants are not states, state officials, or other government entities against whom the district court may be foreclosed from ordering relief, and (4) the number of plaintiffs in the class is at least 100. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d)(2), (d)(5). Further, "under CAFA the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction remains, as before, on the proponent of federal jurisdiction." Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chemical Co. , 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006).

The Ninth Circuit has held that if it is "unclear or ambiguous from the face of a state-court complaint whether the requisite amount in controversy is pled, " a "preponderance of the evidence" standard applies. Guglielmino v. McKee Foods, Inc. , 506 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co. , 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 1996)). In this case, the parties agree that the "preponderance of the evidence" standard applies.

B. Legal Analysis

Defendant's notice of removal presents two alternative calculations of the alleged amount-in-controversy (not including attorneys' fees): either $10, 916, 992 or $7, 884, 755.[2] Defendant reaches these amounts by making two different assumptions regarding its violation rate for the meal and rest period claims. According to defendants' calculations, if each class member missed a meal or rest period every week, then the amount in controversy would be $10, 916, 992; whereas if each class ...

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