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Wickens v. Blue Cross of California, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 18, 2015

STEVE WICKENS, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
Blue Cross of California, Inc., d/b/a Anthem Blue Cross; Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND, DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STAY AS MOOT AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF LEAVE TO AMEND THE COMPLAINT [Dkt. Nos. 8, 11.]

GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to remand to state court. (Dkt. No. 8.) Also, before the Court is Defendants' motion to stay, or in the alternative, for an extension of time to respond pending ruling on § 1407 transfer motion. (Dkt. No. 11.)

Based on the briefs, supporting documentation, and the applicable law, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion to remand, and DENIES Defendants' motion to stay as moot. The Court also GRANTS Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint.

Background

On March 16, 2015, Plaintiff Steven Wickens ("Plaintiff") filed a class action complaint against Defendants Blue Cross of California Inc., d/b/a Anthem Blue Cross; and Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company in San Diego Superior Court for state law causes of action based on Defendants' failure to secure and safeguard Plaintiff's personal identifying information ("PII").

According to the complaint, on February 4, 2015, Anthem, Inc., a related entity, announced that cyber hackers had gained unauthorized access to its information technology system exposing the name, personal information, birthday, Social Security number, health care ID number, income data, employment data, street address, email address, and other personal details of about 80 million current and former customers and employees. (Dkt. No. 1-2, Compl. ¶ 4.) The class action complaint alleges causes of action for breach of contract, violation of the California Records Act, violation of the California unfair competition laws, negligence, invasion of privacy, public disclosure of private facts and unjust enrichment. (Dkt. No. 1-2, Compl.)

On April 15, 2015, Defendants removed the case to this Court under the Class Action Fairness Act, ("CAFA"). (Dkt. No. 1, Notice of Removal at 6.) On April 24, 2015, the case was transferred to the undersigned judge pursuant to the low number rule. See Local Civ. R. 40.1. (Dkt. No. 7.) On May 5, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand. (Dkt. No. 8.) Defendants filed an opposition on May 22, 2015. (Dkt. No. 15.) Plaintiff filed a reply on May 29, 2015. (Dkt. No. 18.) On May 7, 2015, Defendants filed a motion to stay, or in the alternative, for an extension of time to respond pending ruling on 28 U.S.C. § 1407[1] transfer motion. (Dkt. No. 11.) Plaintiff filed an opposition on May 22, 2015. (Dkt. No. 14.) Defendants filed a reply on May 29, 2015. (Dkt. No. 19.)

During the pendency of these motions, on June 8, 2015, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ("JPML") in the case of In Re: Anthem, Inc. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation transferred 16 cases to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and assigned the case to District Judge Lucy H. Koh for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407. (MDL Case No. 2617, Dkt. No. 262.) On June 9, 2015, the JPML issued a conditional transfer order that included this case. (MDL Case No. 2617, Dkt. No. 263.) Pursuant to the Rules of Procedure of the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, the conditional order is stayed for a period seven days to allow parties to file an opposition. R. Proc. Jud. Panel Multi. Litig. 7.1(c). On June 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed a timely opposition, which triggered a briefing schedule. (MDL Case No. 2617, Dkt. Nos. 274, 275.)

The JPML's Rules of Procedure provide that:

The pendency of a motion, order to show cause, conditional transfer order or conditional remand order before the Panel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 does not affect or suspend orders and pretrial proceedings in any pending federal district court action and does not limit the pretrial jurisdiction of that court. A transfer or remand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 shall be effective only upon its filing with the clerk of the transferee district court.

R. Proc. Jud. Panel Multi. Litig. 2.1(d). A "district judge should not automatically stay discovery, postpone rulings on pending motions, or generally suspend further rulings upon a parties' [sic] motion to the MDL Panel for transfer and consolidation." Rivers v. Walt Disney Co., 980 F.Supp. 1358, 1360 (C.D. Cal. 1997). Therefore, since the conditional transfer order is still pending on this case, the Court has jurisdiction to consider the motion to remand.

A. Which Court Determines Motion to Remand

The parties disagree whether this Court or the MDL Court should rule on the motion to remand. Defendants argue that the motion to remand should be deferred for consideration by the JPML once transferred. They contend that these issues are not unique and have been raised in other removal cases in four other actions and therefore consistency, uniformity and predictability in rulings mandate that the JPML decide the motion to remand. Plaintiff contends that this Court should rule on the motion to remand because this court must address threshold issues of subject matter jurisdiction before a motion to stay.

Generally a court may not rule on the merits of a case without first determining whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over the case. Sinochem Int'l Co. Ltd. v. Malaysia Int'l Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 425 (2007) (court has discretion to rule on forum non conveniens prior to subject matter jurisdiction since it is a nonmerits issue); Potter v. Hughes, 546 F.3d 1051, 1061 (9th Cir. 2008). However, there is no "mandatory sequencing of jurisdictional issues.'" Sinochem Int'l Co. Ltd., 549 U.S. at 431. Federal courts have leeway to decide which threshold grounds "for denying audience to a case on the merits." Id. (quoting Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 585 (1999)). Since multi-litigation cases involve considerations of "judicial economy and consistency", motions to stay may be considered before remand motions. See Pacific Inv. Mgmt. Co. LLC v. American Int'l Group, Inc., No. SA CV 15-687-DOC, 2015 WL 3631833, at *4 (C.D. Cal. June 10, 2015). Moreover, the JPML has ...


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