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Allen v. Wilson

United States District Court, C.D. California

February 26, 2015

Aletha Allen, et al.
v.
Carl Wilson, et al.

CIVIL MINUTES-GENERAL

JESUS G. BERNAL, District Judge.

Proceedings: Order (1) DENYING Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. No. 18); and (2) VACATING the March 2, 2015, Hearing (IN CHAMBERS)

Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand. (Doc. No. 18.) The Court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without a hearing. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L.R. 7-15. After considering the papers timely filed in support of and in opposition to the motion, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand and VACATES the March 2, 2015, hearing.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Aletha Allen, Odessa Andrews, Kennedy Anderson, Anita Toliver, Royline Smith, April Ciambrello, Lacree Rue, and Ollie Tate (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed their Complaint against Defendants Carl Wilson, Ben Lipps, Fresenius USA, Inc., Fresenius USA Manufacturing, Inc., Fresenius Medical Care Holdings, Inc., Fresenius Medical Care North America, Inc., Fresenius USA Marketing, Inc., Walter L. Weisman, and fictitious persons (collectively, "Defendants") in the Superior Court of California, County of Sonoma, on March 12, 2014. ("Compl., " Doc. No. 1-2.) The Complaint asserted products liability claims related to personal injuries and death resulting from the use of Defendants' products "GranuFlo Dry Acid Concentrate" and "NaturaLyte Liquid Acid Concentrate." (Compl. ¶¶ 1-3.)

Numerous other "GranuFlo/NaturaLyte" cases were also filed in California state courts, and, on January 21, 2013, plaintiffs in four of those cases filed a petition for coordination with the Chair of the California Judicial Counsel. ("Pet. to Coordinate, " Declaration of David Stern ("Stern Decl."), Ex. A, Doc. No. 19-1.) The four cases sought to be coordinated into the judicial council coordinated proceedings ("JCCP") were Sanchez, et al. v. Fresenius USA, Inc., et al., Case No. BC499080, Hobbs, et al. v. Fresenius USA, Inc., et al., Case No. 13CECG00161, Frazee, et al. v. Fresenius USA, Inc., et al., Case No. 37-2013-00030004-CU-PL-CTL, and Rollins, et al. v. Fresenius USA, Inc., et al., Case No. 250199. (Id. at 3.) The petition was approved and the JCCP created on March 20, 2013. (Stern Decl. ¶ 1.)

On July 16, 2014, fifty plaintiffs in another GranuFlo/NaturaLyte case- Baker, et al. v. Fresenius USA, Inc., et al., Case No. BC550187 - filed a request to coordinate their claims into the JCCP. ("Baker Petition, " Stern Decl., Ex. C.) The JCCP court granted the Baker Petition on August 14, 2104, after which that case was coordinated into the JCCP, and the total number of plaintiffs in the coordinated cases exceeded one hundred plaintiffs. (Stern Decl. ¶ 4.)

On September 29, 2014, Plaintiffs in this action filed a request to coordinate their claims as part of the JCCP. ("Allen Petition, " Stern Decl., Ex. D.) The JCCP court granted Plaintiffs' petition on October 15, 2014. (Stern Decl. ¶ 5.)

On November 25, 2014, the lead counsel for defendants and counsel for the plaintiffs in the JCCP stipulated to select the claims of only four plaintiffs for discovery and trial, which would be tried separately with a single plaintiff per trial. ("Stipulation, " Declaration of Jill T. Lin ("Lin Decl."), Ex. 1.) On December 1, 2014, the JCCP coordination trial judge approved the stipulation and proposed order to that effect. (Id.)

Defendants filed their Notice of Removal on December 18, 2014. ("Not. of Removal, " Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiffs moved to remand on January 19, 2015.[1] ("Motion, " Doc. No. 18.) Defendants opposed on February 9, 2015. ("Opp'n, " Doc. No. 19.) On February 16, 2015, Plaintiffs filed their reply brief. ("Reply, " Doc. No. 20.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA") grants the district courts original jurisdiction over "mass actions" in the same manner as if they were "class actions." See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(11)(A). A "mass action" is "any civil action... in which monetary relief claims of 100 or more persons are proposed to be tried jointly on the ground that the plaintiffs' claims involve common questions of law or fact." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(11)(B)(i). However, a mass action may include only those plaintiffs who are diverse from defendants and whose claims involve over $75, 000 in controversy. Id.; 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Moreover, a mass action does not include cases in which "the claims have been consolidated or coordinated solely for pretrial proceedings." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(11)(B)(ii)(IV). Similar to a "class action, " a federal district court has jurisdiction over a "mass action" if the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000 and the parties are minimally diverse. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2), 1332(d)(11)(A).

Under CAFA, "the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction remains... on the proponent of federal jurisdiction." Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006). In ordinary removal cases, a presumption against removal jurisdiction may be appropriate and "[f]ederal jurisdiction... rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal." Gaus v. Miles, 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (internal citations omitted). However, "no antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking CAFA, which Congress enacted to ...


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