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Varsam v. Laboratory Corporation

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 13, 2015

RITA VARSAM, individually and on behalf of other members of the general public similarly situated, and as aggrieved employees, Plaintiff,
v.
LABORATORY CORPORATION OF AMERICA, DBA LAB. CORP., a Delaware Corporation; and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REMAND

BARRY TED MOSKOWITZ, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff has filed a motion to remand this case to state court. For the reasons discussed below Plaintiff's motion to remand is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

On June 3, 2014, Plaintiff commenced this action in the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego. Plaintiff is suing on behalf of herself and a purported class consisting of "all persons who worked as non-exempt Patient Service Technicians for Defendants in California, within four years prior to the filing of this complaint until date of certification." (Compl. ¶ 16.)

Plaintiff raises eight causes of action against Defendant Laboratory Corporation of America ("LabCorp"): (1) violation of California Labor Code §§ 510 and 1198 (unpaid overtime); (2) violation of California Labor Code §§ 1194, 1197, and 1197.1 (unpaid minimum wages); (3) violation of California Labor Code §§ 226.7 and 512(a) (unpaid meal period premiums); (4) violation of California Labor Code § 226.7 (unpaid rest period premiums); (5) violation of California Labor Code §§ 201 and 202 (wages not timely paid upon termination); (6) violation of California Labor Code § 226(a) (non-complaint wage statements); (7) violation of California Labor Code §§ 2698, et seq. (Private Attorney General's Act or "PAGA"); and (8) violation of California Business & Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq. (unfair and harmful business practices). (Compl. ¶¶ 7-18.) Plaintiff seeks damages, statutory penalties, civil penalties, injunctive relief, and attorney's fees. (Compl. Prayer for Relief ¶ 1.)

On November 17, 2014, Defendant removed this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, 1446, as amended by the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-2, 118 Stat. 4 ("CAFA"). According to the Notice of Removal, Defendant is a citizen of Delaware and North Carolina, and Plaintiff is a citizen of California. (Notice of Removal, ¶¶ 15, 16.) The Notice of Removal also states that the proposed class includes in excess of 100 members and that the amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000. (Notice of Removal, ¶¶ 10, 29.)

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff moves to remand this action on the ground that Defendant has failed to satisfy its burden of establishing that the amount in controversy exceeds the sum of $5, 000, 000 and that there is minimal diversity of citizenship. The Court finds that Defendant has met its burden of establishing removal jurisdiction under CAFA.

A. Amount in Controversy

1. Governing Law

Under CAFA, the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction rests on the removing party. Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chemical Co., 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006). A removing defendant need only include a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold, and the defendant's amount in controversy allegation should be accepted if not contested by the plaintiff or questioned by the court. Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). If, however, "defendant's assertion of the amount in controversy is challenged... both sides submit proof and the court decides, by a preponderance of the evidence whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has been satisfied." Dart, 135 S.Ct. at 554 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B)); Rodriguez v. AT&T Mobility Servs. LLC, 728 F.3d 975, 978 (9th Cir. 2013). Under the preponderance of the evidence standard, a defendant must establish "that the potential damage could exceed the jurisdictional amount." Rea v. Michaels Stores Inc., 742 F.3d 1234, 1239 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Lewis v. Verizon Commc'ns, Inc., 627 F.3d 395, 397 (9th Cir. 2010)).

This burden is not "daunting" and only requires that the defendant "provide evidence establishing that it is more likely than not ' that the amount in controversy exceeds [$5 million]." Korn v. Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., 536 F.Supp.2d 1199, 1204 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 27, 2008) (emphasis in original). Still, "[a] defendant cannot establish removal jurisdiction by mere speculation and conjecture, with unreasonable assumptions." Ibarra v. Manheim Investments, Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015). Claims regarding the amount in controversy under a preponderance of the evidence standard should be "tested by consideration of real evidence and the reality of what is at stake in the litigation, using reasonable assumptions underlying the defendant's theory of damages exposure." Id. at 1198.

The plaintiff is not required to submit evidence refuting the defendant's allegations and evidence of the amount in controversy in order to prevail on its motion to remand. Unutoa v. Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Inc., 2015 WL 89512, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 3, 2015). However, as "master of [her] claim[s], " if the plaintiff wants to avoid removal, she may plead facts narrowing the ...


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