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Langevin v. Federal Express Corporation

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 6, 2015

STANLEY V. LANGEVIN, an individual, Plaintiff,
FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, a corporation; STEVEN B. SOBCZAK, an individual; WILLIAM CUSATO, an individual; JACK EARLS, an individual; and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, Defendants.


MARGARET M. MORROW, District Judge.

On September 12, 2014, Stanley V. Langevin filed this action against Federal Express Corporation ("FedEx"), Steven B. Sobczak, William Cusato, Jack Earls, and various fictitious defendants (collectively, "defendants") in Los Angeles Superior Court.[1] The complaint pleads claims for retaliation in violation of public policy;[2] violation of California Labor Code § 1102.5 et seq.; [3] and intentional infliction of emotional distress.[4] The first and second causes of action name all defendants; the third claim is asserted only against FedEx, Cusato, and Earls.

Defendants were served on September 23, 2014.[5] They timely removed the action on October 20, 2014, invoking the court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).[6] In their notice of removal, defendants asserted that Sobczak, Cusato, and Earls were sham defendants, who were fraudulently joined to defeat diversity and divest the federal court of jurisdiction.[7]

On November 10, 2014, defendants filed a motion to dismiss Langevin's first, second, and third causes of action against Sobczak, Cusato, and Earls (collectively, the "individual defendants") under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and to sever the individual defendants for misjoinder under Rule 21.[8] On November 18, 2014, Langevin filed a motion to remand to Los Angeles Superior Court.[9] Langevin opposed defendants' motion to dismiss on February 11, 2015, [10] and two days later, on February 13, 2015, defendants opposed Langevin's motion.[11] Also on February 13, 2015, the Access to Courts Initiative, American Coatings Association, Inc., and California Employment Law Council filed applications to appear as amici curiae and file briefs in opposition to Langevin's motion to remand.[12] The court denied the applications the same day.[13]

Pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rule 7-15, the court finds this matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. The hearing calendared for March 9, 2015, is therefore vacated, and the matter taken off calendar.


A. The Parties

FedEx is a Delaware corporation that provides personal and commercial delivery services throughout the United States and worldwide.[14] To facilitate its services, FedEx maintains aircraft at various airports in the United States, including Los Angeles International Airport ("LAX").[15] Plaintiff Stanley V. Langevin is an aircraft maintenance technician ("AMT") with more than forty years of experience.[16] Langevin first trained as an AMT while serving in the United States Air Force from 1969 to 1973.[17] After being discharged from the Air Force, he continued to perform aircraft maintenance; on August 1, 1983, Langevin went to work as an AMT for Flying Tigers Airline at LAX.[18] He became employed by FedEx in August 1989, when Flying Tigers merged with FedEx.[19] During his employment with the company, Scott has been supervised by Steven B. Sobczak, William Cusato, and Jack Earls.[20]

B. General Background Regarding Aircraft Maintenance

Commercial airlines, including FedEx, are required to following regulations promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA").[21] The regulations regarding aircraft maintenance are designed to ensure that aircraft are in good repair and can fly safely.[22] Airlines routinely share maintenance equipment and technicians to ensure that all aircraft are serviced properly and meet FAA regulations prior to flying.[23] FedEx purportedly has contractual obligations to provide maintenance support and assistance to other international airlines when they require assistance.[24] Langevin alleges that FedEx assists other carriers once or twice a month and also receives assistance from other airlines on a regular basis.[25]

AMTs working for FedEx at LAX work one of two shifts - a day shift and a swing shift.[26] AMTs were assigned to one or the other; Langevin worked the swing shift, which typically ran from 1:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.[27] At the beginning of each shift, FedEx purportedly assigned its AMTs to service a particular aircraft during the shift.[28] After completing all required maintenance and service, the AMT was allegedly required to complete a maintenance report outlining the work performed, and confirming that the repair and maintenance work satisfied the FAA's Federal Aviation Regulations ("FARs").[29] In the event an AMT was not able to compete all required maintenance during his or her shift, he was required to complete a "turn-over form, " which assigned the unfinished aircraft maintenance and repair to an AMT working the next shift.[30]

C. Defendants' Purported Harassment of Plaintiff

Langevin alleges that, for the majority of his time at FedEx, he was regularly recognized as an exceptional employee - receiving numerous awards, recognition, and good performance reviews from his superiors.[31] He asserts that FedEx and other airlines based at LAX relied heavily on him to solve numerous aircraft maintenance issues given his extensive experience and expertise as an AMT.[32]

Langevin contends that FedEx and his supervisors began to interact with him in a hostile manner following his discovery that FedEx's day shift AMTs, supervisors, and managers routinely returned aircraft to service that did not comply with the FARs.[33] He asserts that he reviewed the turn-over forms he received from day shift AMT to assess what work had been done on the aircraft.[34] Langevin then inspected the aircraft, and allegedly discovered that the service purportedly performed by day shift AMTs either had not been performed or had been performed in a manner that did not comply with the FARs.[35] He contends FedEx purportedly returned aircraft to service without failing to repair corrosion; purportedly in some cases, the corrosion was sufficiently extensive that it caused the aircraft skin to crack.[36] Langevin asserts that the failure to maintain FedEx aircraft adequately was a "calculated, illegal scheme" undertaken to increase the company's profits.[37]

Upon discovery of the maintenance issues, Langevin purportedly complained, both verbally and in writing, to his supervisors, managers, co-workers, and quality control engineers.[38] He asserts that, rather than investigating his complaints, FedEx, through his supervisors, began to retaliate against him.[39] It purportedly did this (1) repeatedly writing him up and suspending him for fabricated and pretextual reasons; (2) yelling and screaming at him; (3) meeting with Langevin's co-workers and asking for "dirt" on Langevin that could be used to discipline and/or demote him; (4) treating Langevin in a hostile, rude manner and shunning him; and (5) demoting Langevin from his position as a Lead AMT despite his qualifications for the position.[40]

D. Plaintiff's Claims

As noted, based on these facts, Langevin pleads claims for retaliation in violation of public policy;[41] violation of California Labor Code § 1102.5;[42] and intentional infliction of emotional distress.[43] The first two of these claims are asserted against all defendants; the third cause of action is directed against FedEx, Earls, and Cusato.


A. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand

1. Legal Standard Governing Removal Jurisdiction

The right to remove a case to federal court is entirely a creature of statute. See Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979). The removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, allows a defendant to remove a case originally filed in state court if it presents a federal question or is between citizens of different states and involves an amount in controversy that exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), (b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1332(a). Only state court actions that could originally have been filed in federal court can be removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); see Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); Ethridge v. Harbor House Restaurant, 861 F.2d 1389, 1393 (9th Cir. 1988).

The Ninth Circuit "strictly construe[s] the removal statute against removal jurisdiction, " and "[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected 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) (citing Boggs v. Lewis, 863 F.2d 662, 663 (9th Cir. 1985), and Libhart, 592 F.2d at 1064). "The strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper." Id. (citing Nishimoto v. Federman-Bachrach & Associates, 903 F.2d 709, 712 n. 3 (9th Cir. 1990); Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988)).

2. Whether the Court Should Remand the Action to Los Angeles Superior Court

As noted, defendants contend that the court has diversity jurisdiction to hear this action.[44] "The district courts... have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs and is between... citizens of different States." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); see also Matheson v. Progressive Speciality Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003) ("[J]urisdiction founded on [diversity] requires that the parties be in complete diversity and the amount in controversy exceed $75, 000"). In any case where subject matter jurisdiction is premised on diversity, there must be complete diversity, i.e., all plaintiffs must ...

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