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Mejia v. DHL Express (USA), Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 21, 2015

Jorge Alberto Mejia
DHL Express (USA), Inc.


GEORGE H. KING, Chief District Judge.

Proceedings: (In Chambers) Order re: Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Dkt. 20)

This matter is before us on the above-captioned Motion. We have considered the papers filed in support of and in opposition to this Motion, and deem this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument. L.R. 7-15. As the Parties are familiar with the facts, we will repeat them only as necessary. Accordingly, we rule as follows.

I. Procedural and Factual Background

On December 2, 2014, Plaintiff Jorge Alberto Mejia ("Mejia") brought this class action in state court against Defendant DHL Express (USA), Inc. ("Defendant") alleging various claims based on violations of the California Labor Code. (Dkt. 1-1, Compl.) On January 7, 2015, a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") was filed, and Defendant was served for the first time shortly thereafter. (Dkt. 1-2, FAC; Dkt. 1-3, Summons.) On February 6, 2015, Defendant removed this action to federal court on the basis of CAFA jurisdiction. (Dkt. 1, Notice of Removal ("NOR").) On March 20, 2015, Plaintiff filed this Motion to Remand ("Motion"), claiming that we lack jurisdiction because the amount in controversy does not exceed $5, 000, 0000. (Dkt. 20.)

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant "adopted and maintained uniform policies, practices and procedures... that violated California's labor law." (FAC at ¶ 11.) Among other things, he alleges that Defendant failed to pay for meal and rest breaks, failed to pay minimum wage, failed to pay hours worked, failed to supply accurate wage statements, and failed to promptly pay wages owed to class members at the end of their employment.

II. Legal Standard

CAFA provides that federal district courts have "original jurisdiction of any civil action in which the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5, 000, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is a class action in which" there is minimum diversity between the parties. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2). "[U]nder CAFA[, ] the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction remains, as before, on the proponent of federal jurisdiction." Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006) (per curiam). "Where the complaint does not specify the amount of damages sought, the removing defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy requirement has been met." Id. at 683.

To satisfy this standard, the "defendants' notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold." Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). If the plaintiff or the court contests defendants allegation, however, "[e]vidence establishing the amount is required." Id. "In such a case, both sides submit proof and the court decides, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has been satisfied." Id. at 554. In proving the amount in controversy, "[t]he parties may submit evidence outside the complaint, including affidavits or declarations, or other summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal." Ibarra v. Manheim Investments, Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Under this system, a defendant cannot establish removal jurisdiction by mere speculation and conjecture, with unreasonable assumptions. Id.

Defendant contends that the Supreme Court's reference to "both sides" submitting proof means that Plaintiff should have produced affirmative evidence showing that the amount in controversy is not satisfied with his Motion. We recently rejected a similar argument in our remand order for Erick Lina v. Barnes & Noble, Inc. :

[W]e do not believe that Dart Cherokee changed anything regarding the relevant procedure once a party challenges federal jurisdiction. See Manibhadra, Inc. v. Aspen Ins. UK Ltd., 2014 WL 7246858, at *1-2 (D. Kan. Dec. 17, 2014) (concluding that, with respect to "the procedure when the plaintiff challenges the defendant's assertion of the amount in controversy[, ]... Dart does not change established [] law"). The Court's statement that "when a defendant's assertion of the amount in controversy is challenged... both sides submit proof" was derived from 28 U.S.C. § 1446.... Dart Cherokee, 135 S.Ct. at 554 (quoting § 1446(c)(2)(B) for the proposition that "removal... is proper on the basis of an amount in controversy asserted... if the district court finds, by the preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds the [necessary] amount"). The relevant House Judiciary Committee Report merely states that "[d]iscovery may be taken with regard to [the jurisdictional threshold]. In case of a dispute, the district court must make findings of jurisdictional fact to which the preponderance standard applies." H.R. Rep. No. 112-10, p. 16 (2011) (emphasis added).
Defendants claim that the Dart Cherokee Court's use of the phrase "both sides submit proof" means that both sides must submit proof of the amount of controversy now, but the Ninth Circuit has made clear that this remains an open question. See Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1199-1200 ("Plaintiffs contend, on the other hand, that plaintiffs' motion to remand need not include evidence and is allowed to be based on the fact that Defendant's evidence is insufficient to meet the burden of proof, ' and that requiring plaintiffs to submit evidence first would fundamentally switch to plaintiffs the burden of defeating subject-matter jurisdiction.' The Supreme Court did not decide the procedure for each side to submit proof on remand, and here we need not decide the procedural issue, either."); Unutoa v. Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Inc., 2015 WL 898512, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 3, 2015) ("While the Ninth Circuit held that both parties are entitled to submit summary-judgment-style evidence regarding the propriety of removal, it declined to decide whether a plaintiff was required to submit evidence refuting the defendant's allegations and evidence of the amount in controversy in order to prevail on a motion to remand.").

CV 15-281-GHK (CWx), at *4-5 (C.D. Cal. April 1, 2015) (footnote omitted). While Plaintiff may rebut Defendant's evidence with his own evidence, he need ...

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