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King v. Soexo, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

August 5, 2016

JAMES KING, Plaintiff,
v.
SOEXO, INC.; SODEXO OPERATIONS LLC; and DOES 1-100, inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR REMAND [13]

          OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff James King originally filed this action in state court against Defendants Sodexo, Inc. and Sodexo Operations LLC (collectively, “Sodexo”). (Complaint “Compl.”, ECF No. 1-3.) Sodexo timely removed the case to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal (“NOR”) 2-7, ECF No. 1.) One month later, Plaintiff moved for leave to file a First Amended Complaint to add two diversity-destroying defendants, co-workers Ryan Moosman and Kevin Akrey. (Mot. 1, ECF No. 13.) Plaintiff also seeks to remand the action back to state court. (Id.) The Court finds that there is bad faith, dilatory motive, and undue delay on the part of Plaintiff in seeking leave to amend. The Court also finds that there is subject-matter jurisdiction over this action, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Therefore, Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend and Remand is DENIED.[1]

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff James King filed the Complaint on February 16, 2016 in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. (Compl., ECF No. 1-3.) This action stems from Sodexo’s alleged unlawful termination of Plaintiff as a senior area resource manager in Agoura Hills, California. (Compl. ¶ 6.) In the operative Complaint, Plaintiff raises state law claims against Sodexo for retaliation, discrimination on the basis of his race and disability, hostile work environment, wrongful termination, harassment, and defamation. (Compl. ¶¶ 17-87.) King contends that he was unlawfully terminated from Sodexo while on medical leave due to an unsubstantiated complaint made against him. (Compl. ¶ 12.) Sodexo, a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Maryland, answered the Complaint in state court on May 4, 2016, and later removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (ECF No. 1.)

         Plaintiff filed the instant Motion on June 09, 2016. (ECF No. 13.) Plaintiff seeks leave to add new diversity-destroying defendants, co-workers Moosman and Akery (“Individual Defendants”), to his claims for harassment and defamation. (Mot. 9.) As such, Plaintiff also seeks to remand the action based on lack of diversity. (Id.) Sodexo filed its Opposition to the Motion on June 20, 2016. (ECF No. 16.) Plaintiff filed its Reply on June 27, 2016. (ECF No. 17.)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject-matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1; e.g., Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A suit filed in state court may be removed to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the suit. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). But courts strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction, and “[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1252 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566).

         Federal courts have original jurisdiction where an action presents a federal question under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. A defendant may remove a case from a state court to a federal court pursuant to the federal removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, on the basis of federal question or diversity jurisdiction. To exercise diversity jurisdiction, a federal court must find complete diversity of citizenship among the adverse parties, and the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000, usually exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

         Generally, “[a] party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within . . . 21 days after service of a responsive pleading.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). However, if a plaintiff joins additional defendants after removal “whose joinder would destroy subject matter jurisdiction, the court may deny joinder.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). Thus, despite a plaintiff’s right to amend under Rule 15(a), numerous courts have held it appropriate for the court “to scrutinize the propriety of a diversity-destroying amendment pursuant to Rule 15(a).” McGrath v. Home Depot USA, Inc., 298 F.R.D. 601, 607 (S.D. Cal. 2014).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Sodexo argues that Plaintiff seeks to add the Individual Defendants to the complaint after removal for the sole purpose of destroying complete diversity, and that the Court should deny his Motion to file a First Amended Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e). (Opp’n to Pla.’s Mot. 1, ECF No. 16.) The Court agrees. Plaintiff’s Motion is not based on the discovery of new facts; the identity of the Individual Defendants and the facts surrounding their potential liability were previously alleged in the original Complaint. (Compl. ¶¶ 7-16.) In addition, because Sodexo has demonstrated that all of the parties in the operative Complaint are diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand must also be denied.

         I. Motion for Leave to Amend

         In determining whether to allow a diversity-destroying amendment under Rule 15(a), courts have considered the following factors: “(1) whether the party sought to be joined [i]s needed for just adjudication and would be joined under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a); (2) whether the statute of limitations would preclude an original action against the new defendants in state court; (3) whether there has been unexplained delay in requesting joinder; (4) whether joinder is intended solely to defeat federal jurisdiction; (5) whether the claims against the new defendant appear valid; and (6) whether denial of joinder will prejudice the plaintiff.” McGrath, 298 F.R.D. at 607 (citing IBC Aviation ...


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