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Castro v. ABM Industries Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 2, 2015

MARLEY CASTRO, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
ABM INDUSTRIES INCORPORATED, ET AL., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND Re: Dkt. No. 25

YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS, District Judge.

This putative class action generally stems from allegations that defendants required their janitorial employees to use personal cell phones for work-related purposes without reimbursement, in violation of California Labor Code section 2802 and California Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq. (Dkt. No. 1-2 ("Complaint") ¶¶ 3-5.) The case was initially filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda.

Defendants removed the action to federal court, arguing this Court has original jurisdiction pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 ("CAFA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2). (Dkt. No. 1.) The parties are presently before the Court on plaintiffs' motion to remand. (Dkt. No. 25 ("Mot.").) Defendants oppose the motion. (Dkt. No. 28 ("Oppo.").)

Having carefully considered the papers submitted, [1] the record in this case, [2] and good cause shown, the Court hereby GRANTS plaintiffs' motion and REMANDS this action to the Superior Court.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

In the original complaint filed in state court on October 24, 2014, the proposed class includes "[a]ll individuals who worked for Defendants as nonexempt janitorial employees paid on an hourly basis in the State of California at any time during the Class Period, " defined as the period beginning four years prior to the date the case was filed through "the present."[3] (Complaint ¶¶ 9, 22.) The complaint generally seeks relief for defendants' purported failure to reimburse employees for expenses associated with their work-related use of personal cell phones. (Id. ¶ 3.)

Defendants purportedly "employed thousands of nonexempt janitorial employees in California and have, at various points, paid those janitorial employees using weekly, bi-weekly, and/or semi-monthly pay periods." (Nedy Decl. ¶ 5.) Collectively, defendants assert those employees worked for a total of 796, 338 semi-monthly pay periods (or their equivalent) between October 24, 2010 and October 24, 2014. (Id. ¶ 9.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A defendant may remove a civil action filed in state court if the action could have originally been filed in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. A plaintiff may seek to have a case remanded to the state court from which it was removed if the district court lacks jurisdiction or if there is a defect in the removal procedure. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The removal statutes are generally construed restrictively, so as to limit removal jurisdiction. See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941).

The district court must remand the case if it appears before final judgment that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). There is typically a "strong presumption" against finding removal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction for purposes of removal is on the party seeking removal. See Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004). Doubts as to removability are generally resolved in favor of remanding the case to state court. See Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003).

CAFA provides that district courts have original jurisdiction over any class action in which: (1) the amount in controversy exceeds five million dollars, (2) any plaintiff class member is a citizen of a state different from any defendant, (3) the primary defendants are not states, state officials, or other government entities against whom the district court may be foreclosed from ordering relief, and (4) the number of plaintiffs in the class is at least 100. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d)(2), (d)(5). District courts also have original jurisdiction over "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)(1). Section 1332(a)'s amount-in-controversy requirement excludes only "interest and costs, " so awardable attorneys' fees are included in the calculation. See Guglielmino v. McKee Foods Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 700 (9th Cir. 2007).

"[U]nder CAFA the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction remains, as before, on the proponent of federal jurisdiction." Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chemical Co., 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006); see also Ibarra v. Manheim Investments, Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015) ("Whether damages are unstated in a complaint, or, in the defendant's view are understated, the defendant seeking removal bears the burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds $5 million when federal jurisdiction is challenged."). In the CAFA context, the applicable burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. See Rodriguez v. AT & T Mobility Servs. LLC, 728 F.3d 975, 977 (9th Cir. 2013). "Conclusory allegations as to the amount in controversy are insufficient." Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090-91. However, "no antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking CAFA, which Congress enacted to facilitate adjudication of certain class actions in federal court." Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014).

When measuring the amount in controversy, a court must assume that the allegations of the complaint are true and that a jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff on all claims made in the complaint. See Kenneth Rothschild Trust v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 199 F.Supp.2d 993, 1001 (C.D. Cal. 2002). "The ultimate inquiry is what amount is put in controversy' by the plaintiff's complaint, not what a defendant will actually owe." Korn v. Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., 536 F.Supp.2d 1199, 1205 (E.D. Cal. 2008) (emphasis in original); see Rippee v. Boston Market Corp., 408 F.Supp.2d 982, 986 (S.D. Cal. 2005). In order to determine whether the removing party has met its burden, a court may consider the contents of the removal petition and summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of the removal. See Valdez, 372 F.3d at 1117. ...


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