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Lafountain v. Meridian Senior Living, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 29, 2015

SHAWN LAFOUNTAIN
v.
MERIDIAN SENIOR LIVING, LLC

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

R. GARY KLAUSNER, District Judge.

Proceedings: (IN CHAMBERS) Order re Motion to Remand (DE 10) and Motion to Strike (DE 7)

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On March 16, 2015, Shawn Lafountain ("Plaintiff"), a former hourly-paid, non-exempt employee of Meridian Senior Living, LLC ("Defendant"), filed a Complaint in Santa Barbara Superior Court bringing a putative class action on behalf of all of Defendant's current and former hourly-paid or non-exempt employees. Plaintiff alleges eleven causes of action against Defendant for various violations of the California Labor Code.[1]

On May 1, 2015, Defendant removed the action to this Court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"). On May 26, Plaintiff filed the current Motion to Strike Portions of Defendant's Answer. May 27, 2015, Plaintiff filed the current Motion to Remand. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Remand, and DENIES as moot Plaintiff's Motion to Strike.

II. JUDICIAL STANDARD

A defendant may remove a case from state court when the federal court would have had original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). "If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); see also ARCO Envtl. Remediation v. Dep't of Health & Envtl. Quality, 213 F.3d 1108, 1113 (9th Cir. 2000) ("If a case is improperly removed, the federal court must remand the action because it has no subject-matter jurisdiction to decide the case.").

A defendant seeking to remove a case must file in the district court a notice of removal "containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal." 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a). In a CAFA case, "the proper burden of proof imposed upon a [removing] defendant to establish the amount in controversy is the preponderance of the evidence standard." Rodriguez v. AT & T Mobility Servs., LLC., 728 F.3d 975, 977 (9th Cir. 2013). "[A] defendant's notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold... [and] need not contain evidentiary submissions." Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 549 (2014). However, if a plaintiff contests the allegations set forth in the notice of removal, "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 553.

III. DISCUSSION

CAFA grants federal courts original jurisdiction over class action cases that meet the following requirements: (1) the proposed class contains more than 100 members; (2) minimal diversity exists between the parties; and (3) the amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d); Kuxhausen v. BMW Fin. Servs. NA LLC, 707 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2013). Minimal diversity exists when any member of a plaintiff class is diverse from any defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(c). Defendant contends that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case, as all three requirements have been met. The Court disagrees with respect to the amount in controversy.

A. Size of Proposed Class

According to Plaintiff, Defendant improperly asserts, without documentation or a declaration, that there are 811 class members. However, in its Opposition, Defendant proffers the declaration of Scott Pechaitis, Esq. ("Pechaitis") who conducted data analysis for this case. Analyzing Defendant's records during the period from June 1, 2013 to February 15, 2015, Pechaitis identified approximately 811 putative class members. (Pechaitis Decl. ¶ 6.) Thus, the Court finds that Defendant sufficiently satisfied its burden of showing a putative class exceeding 100 members.

B. Minimal Diversity of the Parties

The citizenship of an LLC for purposes of diversity jurisdiction is the citizenship of its members. Johnson v. Columbia Properties Anchorage, LP, 437 F.3d 894, 899 (9th Cir. 2000). If any member of a limited liability company ("LLC") is itself a partnership or association (or another LLC), the federal court needs to know the citizenship of each submember as well. Id. Defendant has submitted a declaration from Robert A. Sweet ("Sweet"), Defendant's Chief Investment Officer and Vice President. In his declaration, Sweet confirms that Defendant is an LLC consisting of three members: (1) Kacy Kang, a citizen of North Carolina; (2) Kevin Carlin, a citizen of Washington; and (3) White Point Holdings, LP. (Sweet Decl. ¶ 3.) The citizenship of White Point Holdings, LP is determined by identifying the citizenship of its members. In his declaration, Sweet establishes that White Point Holdings, LP has three partners: (1) Charles E. Trefzger, a citizen of North Carolina; (2) himself, a citizen of Maryland; and (3) Timothy P. ...


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