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Yocupicio v. Pae Group, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 29, 2014

Porfiria Yocupicio
PAE Group, LLC. et al.

Justin F. Marquez, Attorneys Present for Plaintiffs.

Michael E. Chase, Attorneys Present for Defendants.


GEORGE H. WU, District Judge.


Court hears oral argument. The Tentative circulated and attached hereto, is adopted as the Court's Final Ruling. Plaintiffs Motion is DENIED.

Porfiria Yocupicio ("Plaintiff') filed this putative class action in state court against her former employer, a staffing company called Arch Resources Group, LLC ("Arch"), [1] asserting claims for: (1) missed meal periods, Cal. Lab. Code §§ 226.7, 512; (2) missed rest breaks, id § 226.7; (3) unpaid minimum wages, id. § 1194; (4) unpaid overtime, id. §§ 1194, 1198; (5) unpaid vacation time, id. § 227.3; (6) failure to timely pay temporary employees, id. § 201.3; (7) waiting-time penalties, id. §§ 201-03; (8) inaccurate itemized wage statements, id.§ 226; (9) unfair competition, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200; and (10) related penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 ("PAGA"), Cal. Lab. Code § 2698 et seq. See First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), Docket No. 1, Ex. A. In November 2014, Arch removed the case to this Court under authority conferred by the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA"), Pub. L. No. 109-2, 119 Stat. 4. See Removal Notice, Docket No. 1. Shortly after removal, Plaintiff filed the now-pending Motion to Remand and Request for Attorney's Fees and Costs ("Mot"). Docket No. 10-1. In addition to Plaintiffs Motion, the Court also has before it Arch's Opposition ("Opp.") and supporting evidence, Docket No. 12, and Plaintiffs Reply, Docket No. 14. For the reasons below, the Court would DENY the motion.

I. Background

Plaintiff worked for Arch as an hourly-paid, non-exempt employee from October 18, 2012 until September 30, 2013. FAC ¶ 7. After filing her initial Complaint in June 2014, Plaintiff filed the operative FAC in August 2014, alleging that Arch committed various wage-and-hour violations. To vindicate these alleged violations, Plaintiff seeks to recover damages and penalties on behalf of a class consisting of:

All persons employed by Defendant to work in any hourly paid job position in California at any time during the period beginning four years before the filing of the initial complaint in this action and ending when the notice to the Class is sent. For purposes of this definition, "Defendant" means [PAE], [Arch], and any of the fictitiously named defendants... which may include subsidiaries of, or companies owned by, [PAE/Arch.]

FAC ¶ 24. Though Plaintiff purports to represent a class stretching back to 2010, Arch did not employ hourly employees in California until May 15, 2012. See Docket No. 12-1, Declaration of John Colagrande ("Colagrande Deel.") ¶ 2. Since that time, Arch has employed 515 people who fall within the class definition, although 245 of those people no longer work for the company. Id. ¶¶ 2-3.

II. Legal Standard

The right to remove a case to federal court is entirely a creature of statute. Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979). Ordinarily, it "is presumed that a cause lies outside the limited jurisdiction of federal courts, " Abrego Abrego v. Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 684 (9th Cir. 2006), and the Ninth Circuit "strictly construe[s] the removal statute against... jurisdiction, " Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566-67 (9th Cir. 1992). But, as the Supreme Court recently explained, the rule is different in CAFA cases. No "antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking CAFA" because "Congress enacted [CAFA] to facilitate adjudication of certain class actions in federal court." Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, No. 13-719, ___ U.S. ____, ___ S.Ct. ____, 2014 U.S. LEXIS 8435, at *13-*14 (Dec. 15, 2014). Nonetheless, while there is no antiremoval presumption, a removing defendant still "has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566; see also Rodriguez v. AT&T Mobility Servs. LLC, 728 F.3d 975, 977 (9th Cir. 2013) ("[T]he proper burden of proof imposed upon a defendant to establish the amount in controversy is the preponderance of the evidence standard"). In CAFA removals, part of that burden includes showing that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d)(2), 1453; Abrego Abrego, 443 F.3d at 686. If the amount in controversy is indeterminate from the face of the pleading, the defendant must establish the $5 million jurisdictional amount by a preponderance of the evidence. See Guglielmina v. McKee Foods Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 2007) ("We have... applied the preponderance [standard] to complaints filed under [CAFA] that do not specify a particular amount in controversy") (citing Abrego Abrego, 443 F.3d at 683).

To meet that burden, a defendant may rely on the allegations in the pleadings, which courts assume true, Kenneth Rothschild Trust v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 199 F.Supp.2d 993, 1001 (C.D. Cal. 2002); factual statements in its removal notice and concurrently-submitted, "summary-judgment-type evidence, " Valdezv. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004); Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003) (endorsing "the... practice of considering facts presented in the removal petition [plus]... summary-judgement-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal"); and supplemental summary-judgment-type evidence submitted in opposition to a remand motion, Dart Cherokee, 2014 U.S. LEXIS 8435, at *14. Defendants need not "research, state, and prove the plaintiff's claim for damages, " Coleman v. Estes Express Lines, Inc., 730 F.Supp.2d 1141, 1148 (C.D. Cal. 2010), aff'd 631 F.3d 1010 (9th Cir. 2011), particularly since the question asks only what the plaintiff has "put in controversy, " not how much the defendant should truly owe. Lewis v. Verizon Commc ns, Inc., 627 F.3d 395, 400 (9th Cir. 2010). Nonetheless, because the standard is preponderance of the evidence, courts cannot base jurisdictional determinations on "speculative and self-serving assumptions" that are not clearly suggested by the pleadings or supported by evidence. Garibay v. Archstone Communities LLC, 539 Fed.Appx. 763, 764 (9th Cir. 2013); Roth v. Comerica Bank, 799 F.Supp.2d 1107, 1118, 1127 (C.D. Cal. 2010)("[W]hen applying the preponderance of the evidence standard to California Labor Code claims, many California district courts have refused to credit damage calculations based on variables not clearly suggested by the complaint or supported by evidence, concluding that the calculations are mere conjecture") (emph. added) (collecting cases).

If after reviewing the pleadings and the defendant's summary-judgment-type evidence, a court finds it "more likely than not" that the plaintiff put over $5 million in controversy, remand is unwarranted. Abrego Abrego, 443 F.3d at 689. But if the pleadings and evidence do not establish the threshold jurisdictional amount by a preponderance of the evidence, the case must be remanded ...

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