United States District Court, C.D. California
Leonard Vitale, et al.
Celadon Trucking Services, Inc., et al.
Present: The Honorable Philip S. Gutierrez, United States
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
(In Chambers): Order GRANTING Plaintiff's Motion to
before the Court is Plaintiff Leonard Vitale's
(“Plaintiff”) motion to remand. Dkt. #21. The
Court finds the matter appropriate for decision without oral
argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b); L.R. 7-15.
After considering the moving, opposing and reply papers, the
Court GRANTS the motion to remand.
Celadon Trucking Services, Inc. (“Defendant”) is
a New Jersey Corporation with its principal place of business
in Indiana. Dkt. # 1, Notice of Removal
(“NOR”) ¶ 13. Defendant employed Plaintiff,
a citizen of California, as a truck driver in providing
shipping services throughout California. Dkt. #1-1, Ex. 1
(“Complaint” or “Compl.”)
¶¶ 5, 9.
27, 2015, Plaintiff filed this class action in Los Angeles
Superior Court on behalf of himself and all current and
former California employees of Defendant, employed in
California at any time beginning four years prior to the
filing, who drove as “independent contractor[s]”
for Defendant. Compl. ¶ 22. The Complaint lists
ten causes of action: nine claims under various provisions of
the California Labor Code, and one claim for violation of
California's Unfair Competition Law, Bus. & Prof.
Code §§ 17200 et seq. See id.
previously removed this action to federal court on July 9,
2015, pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005
(“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). See
Dkt. #21 (“Mot.”), 1. Challenging Defendant's
calculations of the amount in controversy, Plaintiff moved to
remand the case. On October 2, 2015, the Court granted
Plaintiff's motion, finding that Defendant had failed to
carry its burden of demonstrating that it is more likely than
not that the amount in controversy reaches $5 million.
Id. at 1-2. Specifically, the Court found that
Defendant had not alleged sufficient facts to support its
assumption that a maximum statutory penalty would apply for
each instance of employee misclassification and rejected
Defendant's inclusion of Private Attorney General Act
(“PAGA”) penalties for purposes of determining
the amount in controversy. Id.
the parties engaged in private mediation in state court prior
to the exchange of formal discovery. Dkt. #1-5,
Declaration of Tae Kim in Support of Defendant's
Second Notice of Removal (“Kim Decl.”)
¶ 4. On October 26, 2016, the parties attended
mediation. Id. At the mediation, Plaintiff provided
Defendant with portions of its mediation brief which
contained an estimate of Defendant's liability for
damages in excess of $18 million. Kim Decl., Ex. A.
The estimate allocated the damages as follows:
Cause of Action
$885, 000 to $2, 655, 000
Pattern and Practice of Willful Misclassification
$1, 770, 000 to $4, 425, 000
Meal and Rest Break Violations
$4, 106, 250
Penalties for Failure to Pay All Wages Due at
Failure to Furnish Timely and Accurate Wage
Failure to Pay All Wages Owed Every Pay Period
$1, 129, 107
Penalties for Failure to Pay Overtime Wages
$10, 783, 080
$18, 837, 187 to $22, 377, 187
See id. Shortly thereafter, on November 16, 2016,
Defendant filed a second notice of removal to federal court
on grounds that Plaintiff's mediation brief constitutes a
“paper” under 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3),
rendering the case removable. See NOR ¶ 5-6. Plaintiff
then filed this motion to remand on grounds that the
mediation brief does not represent a reasonable estimate of
Plaintiff's claims and therefore cannot support
Defendant's burden of establishing that the
jurisdictional minimum of $5 million under CAFA has been met.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Gunn v.
Minton, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013). Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441, a defendant may remove a civil action from state
court to federal district court only if the federal court has
subject matter jurisdiction over the case. See Chicago v.
Int'l Coll. of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 163 (1997)
(“The propriety of removal thus depends on whether the
case originally could have been filed in federal
court.”). Under CAFA, federal district courts have
subject matter jurisdiction over any class action in which
(1) the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million; (2) any
plaintiff class member is a citizen of a state different from
any defendant; and (3) the number of plaintiffs in the
putative class is at least 100. See 28 U.S.C. §
1332(d). While “no antiremoval presumption attends
cases invoking CAFA, ” Dart Cherokee Basin
Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014),
“the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction
remains, as before, on the proponent of federal
jurisdiction.” Abrego v. Dow Chem, 443 F.3d
676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006).
parties do not dispute that CAFA's jurisdictional
requirement of minimal diversity and class numerosity as set
forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d) have been met; the sole
point of contention is whether the amount in controversy
exceeds $5 million. See Mot. 1; Dkt. #22
(“Opp.”) at 1. Under CAFA, “a defendant can
establish the amount in controversy by an unchallenged,
plausible assertion of the amount in controversy in its
notice of removal.” Ibarra v. Manheim Invs.,
Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197-98 (9th Cir. 2015). If the
plaintiff challenges the amount in controversy, the defendant
must submit summary-judgment-style evidence establishing the
amount by preponderance of the evidence. Id.;
Rodriguez v. AT & T Mobility Servs. LLC, 728
F.3d 975, 981 (9th Cir. 2013) (“A defendant seeking
removal of a putative class action must demonstrate, by a
preponderance of evidence, that the aggregate amount in