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Wells Fargo Bank NA v. Bridgewater

United States District Court, C.D. California

January 23, 2015

WELLS FARGO BANK NA et al. Plaintiff,
v.
SEAN BRIDGEWATER et al., Defendants.

ORDER REMANDING CASE TO STATE COURT

ANDRÉ BIROTTE, Jr., District Judge.

On January 14, 2015, Defendants Sean and Tamika Bridgewater, having been sued as tenant-Defendants in what appears to be a routine unlawful detainer action in California state court, filed a Notice of Removal of that action to this Court. (Docket No. 1.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court REMANDS this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

As a routine unlawful detainer action, Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank NA could not have brought this action in federal court initially because the complaint does not competently allege facts creating subject matter jurisdiction, rendering removal improper. 28 U.S.C. §1441(a); see Exxon Mobil Corp v. Allapattah Svcs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 563 (2005).

First, under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441(b), this unlawful detainer action does not give rise to a federal question or substantial question of federal law because unlawful detainer "is purely a creature of California law." Wells Fargo Bank v. Lapeen, 2011 WL 2194117 (N.D. Cal. June 6, 2011). Defendants' reliance on the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., is misplaced. As stated above, "[t]he presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the well-pleaded complaint rule, ' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Wayne v. DHL Worldwide Express, 294 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987)). "[T]he existence of a defense based upon federal law is insufficient to support jurisdiction." Id. (citing Franchise Tax Bd. of State of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for Southern California, 463 U.S. 1, 10-12 (1983)). In this case, the only cause of action alleged in the complaint is for unlawful detainer under California law. Defendants' anticipated defense under the FDCA federal statute does not provide a basis for federal jurisdiction. Cf. Logan v. U.S. Bank Nat. Ass'n, 722 F.3d 1163, 1164 (9th Cir. 2013) (affirming dismissal of the complaint because the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act "does not create a private right of action allowing [plaintiff] to enforce its requirements").[1] "[I]t is now settled law that a case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense... even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint, and even if both parties concede that the federal defense is the only question truly at issue." Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987).

Second, this unlawful detainer action does not give rise to diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441(b). The underlying complaint states that the amount in controversy does not exceed $10, 000. Moreover, removal on the basis of diversity jurisdiction is not proper because Defendants reside in the forum state. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b).

Accordingly, the Court: (1) REMANDS this case to the Superior Court of California, Ventura County, 800 So. Victoria Avenue, Ventura, California 93009, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); (2) ORDERS the Clerk to send a certified copy of this Order to the state court; and (3) ORDERS the Clerk to serve copies of this Order on the parties.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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