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Aburto v. Chartwell Staffing Services Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 27, 2016

Esbeide Aburto
Chartwell Staffing Services, Inc. et al

          Present: The Honorable STEPHEN V. WILSON, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.



         I. Background

         On March 21, 2016, plaintiff Esbeide Aburto ("Aburto" or "Plaintiff) filed a class action complaint in state court against Chartwell Staffing Services, Inc. and Sully Green, Inc. ("Defendants"). Dkt. 1-1 ("Compl."). The complaint alleged claims for: (1) failure to furnish accurate wage statements under California Labor Code § 226, and (2) violations of the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq. (the "UCL"). Id.

         Defendants removed the case to this Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), on April 20, 2016. Dkt. 1. In their notice of removal ("NOR"), Defendants assert that there is federal subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d), the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"). Id. at 3. Defendants take the position that the complaint does not seek significant relief against Sully Green because it only employs a small percentage of potential class members. Id. at 6.

         In her complaint. Plaintiff alleges that she was employed by Chartwell, a staffing employment agency, as an hourly, non-exempt employee. Compl. ¶ 2. Chartwell is a New York corporation with corporate offices located in Pennsylvania. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges that Sully Green was her joint employer. Id. ¶ 3. Sully Green is a California corporation, headquartered in California. Id. ¶ 14. She was an employee from approximately March 2015 to July 2015. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff identifies a number of purported deficiencies with Defendants' wage statement practices that she contends violation California law. See Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 23. She alleges that Defendants "uniformly administered" a policy of failing to Initials of Preparer PMC provide accurate wage statements. Id. ¶ 22. And she seeks to represent "all of Defendants' current and former employees in the State of California who receive or received then wages and wage statements by U.S. Mail or by direct deposit at any time from the date four years prior to the filing of this Complaint through the date of trial in this action." Id. ¶ 19.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. CAFA Jurisdiction

         CAFA gives federal district courts original jurisdiction over class actions involving at least 100 class members, with minimal diversity, and an amount in controversy exceeding $5, 000, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). In its notice of removal, a defendant is required only to offer a "short and plain statement of the grounds for removal." 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a). A "defendant's amount-in-controversy allegations should be accepted when not contested by the plaintiff or questioned by the court." Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 553 (2014).

         There is no antiremoval presumption in CAFA cases. Dart, 135 S.Ct. at 554. But when a plaintiff contests a defendant's amount-in-controversy calculation, the defendant still bears the burden of establishing that removal was proper by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. at 553-54; Rodriguez v. AT & T Mobility Servs. LLC, 728 F.3d 975, 977 (9th Cir. 2013).

         The Ninth Circuit has defined the broad outlines of the process after a plaintiff contests removal jurisdiction under CAFA. "In determining the amount in controversy, courts first look to the complaint." Ibarra v. Manheim Investments, Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015). Next, "[t]he parties may submit evidence outside the complaint, including affidavits or declarations, or other summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount hi controversy at the time of removal." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). This procedure prevents a defendant from establishing federal jurisdiction "by mere speculation and conjecture, with unreasonable assumptions, " instead requiring the parties to rely on "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 1197-98.

         B. Local Controversy Exception

         But even where the threshold requirements of CAFA are met, federal courts must remand removed CAFA cases when the conditions of the "local controversy" exception are met. Benko v. Quality Loan Serv. Corp., 789 F.3d 1111, 1116 (9th Cir. 2015). Under the local controversy exception, a district court must decline to exercise jurisdiction where:

(I) greater than two-thuds of the members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate are citizens of the State in which ...

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