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Machuca v. Los Angeles World Airports

United States District Court, C.D. California

January 21, 2015

Ana Z. Machuca et al.
v.
Los Angeles World Airports et al

COUNSEL PRESENT FOR PLAINTIFFS: Not Present.

COUNSEL PRESENT FOR DEFENDANTS: Not Present.

HONORABLE S. JAMES OTERO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

PROCEEDINGS (in chambers): ORDER REMANDING CASE TO THE SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA FOR COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES; DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AS MOOT [Docket No. 8]; DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STRIKE AS MOOT [Docket No. 10]

This matter is before the Court on its own motion. On October 7, 2014, Plaintiffs Ana Z. Machuca (" Machuca"), Luis G. Hernandez (" Luis"), and Stephanie M. Hernandez (" Stephanie") (collectively, " Plaintiffs"), initiated the instant wrongful death action in the Superior Court of California for Los Angeles County. ( See generally Notice of Removal (" Notice"), Ex. A (" Compl."), ECF No. 1.) Defendants Los Angeles World Airports, Los Angeles Airport Police, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, City of Los Angeles, and County of Los Angeles (collectively, " Defendants") removed the matter to this Court on December 26, 2014. ( See generally Notice.)

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In the Complaint, Plaintiffs allege the following. At approximately 9:20 am on November 1, 2013, Paul Ciancia (" Ciancia") was permitted to enter Terminal 3 of Los Angeles International Airport (" LAX") carrying a bag containing a semiautomatic rifle, five 30-round magazines, and hundreds of additional rounds of ammunition. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 16-17.) Subsequently, Ciancia approached a Transportation Security Administration (" TSA") checkpoint and opened fire with the rifle, shooting decedent Gerardo Ismael Hernandez (" Hernandez"), a TSA Officer, multiple times. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 1, 3, 17.) Hernandez subsequently died. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 3, 16.) Plaintiff Machuca is Hernandez's surviving wife and Plaintiffs Luis and Stephanie Hernandez are his surviving children. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 1-2.)

On the day Hernandez was killed, Defendants' officers, agents, or employees who were assigned to Terminal 3 left their positions without calling for replacement officers. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 10-12, 17.) Plaintiffs allege that such conduct left the terminal without adequate coverage so that " [p]olice officers were not present to stop Ciancia or protect Hernandez." (Compl. ¶ ¶ 10, 17-18.) Additionally, Plaintiffs contend that the missing officers' failure to report in or call for back up violated Defendants' instructions, orders, directions, policies, and procedures which state that, " absent exigent circumstances, " officers assigned to terminals may not leave their assigned terminal area " without prior authorization and a relief unit." (Compl. ¶ 10, 17.) Finally, Plaintiffs maintain that Defendants' failure to: (1) properly hire, train, and supervise their agents, employees, and subcontractors; (2) properly assess and respond to the emergency situation created by the shooting; (3) implement adequate security and incident prevention policies and procedures; (4) inspect and maintain their emergency equipment; (5) adopt adequate security technology; and (6) properly track and maximize expenditures for police services at the airport, contributed to Hernandez's death and were the legal and proximate cause of Plaintiffs' injuries resulting there from. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 15, 19-25.)

In the Complaint, Plaintiffs brought five causes of action for: (1) liability for injuries caused by employee acting within scope of employment pursuant to Cal. Gov. Code § 815.2 (Compl. ¶ ¶ 28-33); (2) liability for injuries caused by independent contractors pursuant to Cal. Gov. Code § 815.4 (Compl. ¶ ¶ 34-40); (3) liability for injuries arising from mandatory duty of public entity pursuant to Cal. Gov. Code § 815.6 (Compl. ¶ ¶ 41-52); (4) liability for injuries caused by failure to inspect, or negligent inspection of property pursuant to Cal. Gov. Code § 818.6 (Compl. ¶ ¶ 53-58); and (5) liability for injuries caused by dangerous condition of property pursuant to Cal. Gov. Code § 835 et seq . (Compl. ¶ ¶ 59-66.)

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard: Sua Sponte Remand

" If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, " it must remand the case. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The Ninth Circuit has held that " a court may raise the question of subject matter jurisdiction, sua sponte, at any time during the pendency of the action." Snell v. Cleveland, Inc., 316 F.3d 822, 826 (9th Cir. 2002). Courts must " strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction" and reject federal jurisdiction " if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). " The strong presumption against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Under the removal statute, an action is removable to federal court only if it might have been brought there originally. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Here, Defendants argue that the Court has federal question jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 37 (" Section 37"). (Notice ¶ 8.)

Federal question jurisdiction exists when a plaintiff asserts a claim or right " arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A case " arises under" federal law if a plaintiff's " well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law." Empire Healthchoice Assurance, Inc. v. McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 690, 126 S.Ct. 2121, 165 L.Ed.2d 131 (2006) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A defendant may not remove a case to federal court on the basis of a federal counterclaim or a federal defense to a state law claim. See, e.g., Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60, 129 S.Ct. 1262, 173 L.Ed.2d 206 (2009); Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987); Botsford v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mont., Inc., 314 F.3d 390, 393 (9th Cir. 2002). Because the well-pleaded complaint rule makes a plaintiff ...


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