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Keiper v. Victor Valley Transit Authority

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 25, 2015

MARGARET KEIPER ET AL.,
v.
VICTOR VALLEY TRANSIT AUTHORITY ET AL.,

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL Proceedings: (IN CHAMBERS) ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND [10] AND DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO STRIKE AND DISMISS [20, 21]

BEVERLY REID O'CONNELL, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This case arises from a motor vehicle collision occurring on or near Fort Irwin in the State of California. Pending before the Court are three separate motions. Plaintiffs Margaret Keiper and Dail Keiper, Jr. (collectively, "Plaintiffs") have filed a Motion to Remand this case to the Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino, where they originally filed the Complaint. (Dkt. No. 10.) Defendants Steven Kilty ("Mr. Kilty") and FBN Transportation, LLC ("FBN Transportation") (collectively, "Moving Defendants") have filed a Motion to Strike those portions of the Complaint alleging that they acted with malice, oppression, or fraud, as well as Plaintiffs' prayer for punitive damages. (Dkt. No. 20.) Moving Defendants also seek to dismiss Plaintiffs' first and third claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 21.)

After considering the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the instant motions, the Court deems these matters appropriate for decision without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; C.D. Cal. L.R. 7-15. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand at this time. Moving Defendants' Motions to Strike and Dismiss are also DENIED.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are the wife and son of Dail Keiper, Sr. ("Decedent Keiper"). (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 4.) Plaintiffs initiated this action in their individual capacities and as successors in interest to Decedent Keiper following a fatal collision involving a tractor-trailer and transit bus on which Decedent Keiper rode as a passenger. According to the First Amended Complaint, Decedent Keiper was a fare-paying passenger on a bus owned and operated by Victor Valley Transit Authority.[1] (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 5, 16.)

The accident giving rise to this case occurred at approximately 5:30 a.m. on June 2, 2014, as the transit bus was traveling northbound on a bypass road in or around Fort Irwin. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Sometime before the collision, a tractor-trailer that had been traveling in the same direction and on the same road came to a complete stop in the roadway. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 27.) The transit bus rear-ended the stopped tractor-trailer, and Decedent Keiper suffered fatal injuries from the collision. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 29.)

Moving Defendants operated the tractor-trailer involved in the accident. According to Plaintiffs, FBN Transportation contracted with the owners of the tractor and trailer to provide drivers to operate each.[2] (Compl. ¶ 21.) Mr. Kilty is employed by FBN Transportation and drove the tractor-trailer on the day of the collision. (Compl. ¶ 27.)

Plaintiffs initiated this action in March 2015 in the Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino. Plaintiffs bring three state law claims for relief, including one claim for negligence and two claims for negligence per se. (Compl. ¶¶ 32-59.) Both FBN Transportation and Mr. Kilty are named on the first claim for negligence, and Mr. Kilty is the sole defendant on Plaintiffs' third claim for negligence per se.

On April 10, 2015, Victor Valley Transit Authority, Transdev Services, Veolia Transportation Services, and Ms. Aguilar (collectively, "Removing Defendants") removed the matter to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 1.) Removing Defendants contend that the accident occurred on the Fort Irwin army base, that the base is a federal enclave, and that this case therefore presents a federal question. (Removal ¶¶ 12-15.) Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion to Remand shortly thereafter. (Dkt. No. 10.) After Plaintiffs filed the motion and on the same day Removing Defendants filed their opposition, (Dkt. No. 27), Removing Defendants also filed a Third Party Complaint against the United States of America, (Dkt. No. 26).

FBN Transportation and Mr. Kilty have not joined Removing Defendants in opposing remand. Moving Defendants have, however, filed a Motion to Strike and Motion to Dismiss. (Dkt. Nos. 20, 21.) Through these motions, Moving Defendants seek to strike the allegations concerning their liability for punitive damages from the Complaint, as well as dismiss Plaintiffs' first and third claims for relief. Plaintiffs have timely opposed both motions, (Dkt. Nos. 31, 32), and Moving Defendants have timely replied, (Dkt. Nos. 39, 40).

III. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Motion to Remand

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and possess only that power authorized by the Constitution and by statute. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A federal district court's removal jurisdiction is entirely governed by Congress's statutory authorization. Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, a civil action may be removed to the district court only if that court has original jurisdiction over the issues alleged in the state court action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal district courts have "original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." A case "arises under" federal law if the plaintiff's "well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action" or that the ...


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