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Rwomwijhu v. SMX, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 3, 2017

ANGELA RWOMWIJHU, Plaintiff,
v.
SMX, LLC., AMAZON.COM, LLC., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

          HONORABLE ANDRÉ BIROTTE JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Angela Rwomwijhu's Motion to Remand, filed November 18, 2016. (Dkt. No. 10.) Defendant Amazon.com (“Amazon”) filed an opposition brief on January 6, 2017 (Dkt. No. 18), and Plaintiff filed a reply brief on January 13, 2017. (Dkt. No. 19.) The Court heard oral argument from the parties on January 30, 2017, and took the matter under submission. (Dkt. No. 20.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Remand.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On September 20, 2016, Plaintiff, a former delivery driver for Defendants Amazon and SMX, filed a class action complaint alleging violations of California wage and hour laws in Los Angeles Superior Court. (Dkt. 1-1, Compl. ¶ 1.)

         Plaintiff identified the class in her Complaint as, “[a]ll persons who work or worked for SMX, LLC, providing package pick-up and delivery services in the state of California at any time within the applicable statute of limitations (“Class Period”). (Compl. ¶ 47.) On behalf of herself and the class, Plaintiff alleged Defendants: (1) failed to pay minimum wages for all hours worked in violation of Labor Code sections 1194 and 1197 (id. at ¶¶ 57-74); (2) failed to provide overtime pay in violation of Labor Code section 510 (id. at ¶¶ 75-86); (3) failed to provide meal and rest periods in violation of Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512 (id. at ¶¶ 87-116); (4) failed to reimburse Plaintiff and putative class members for necessary expenditures in violation of Labor Code section 2802 (id. at ¶¶ 117-26); (5) failed to provide accurate wage statements in violation of Labor Code section 226 (id. at ¶¶ 127-39); (6) failed to pay wages upon discharging employees in violation of Labor Code sections 201-204 (id. at ¶¶ 140-53); and (7) violated California's Unfair Competition Law under Business and Professions Code § 17200, et seq. (id. at ¶¶ 154-66). Plaintiff also seeks an accounting. (Id. at ¶¶ 167-71.)

         Defendants filed a Notice of Removal on October 31, 2016, asserting this Court has jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”). (Dkt. No. 1, Notice of Removal (“Notice”) at 2.) Plaintiff subsequently filed the instant Motion to Remand. (Dkt. No. 10.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         CAFA allows federal courts to exercise jurisdiction over state law class actions when (1) the “matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5, 000, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, ” (2) “any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant, ” and (3) the plaintiff's putative classes include at least 100 total members. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). As in all removal cases, “the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction remains . . . on the proponent of federal jurisdiction.” Abrego Abrego v. Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006). ///

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff does not dispute the putative class size is over 100 members. Accordingly, the Court turns to whether minimal diversity and the amount in controversy are established in this case.

         A. Minimal Diversity

         Minimal diversity is established if “any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(A). Plaintiff is a citizen of California. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff argues Defendants fail to establish minimal diversity because they applied the wrong standard in determining their citizenship as limited liability companies (“LLC”). (Mot. at 4.) Plaintiff argues the citizenship of an LLC is determined by the citizenship of each of the LLC's members, not the principal place of business and the state under whose laws the LLC is incorporated, as Defendants assert. (Id. (citing Stars & Bars, LLC v. Travelers Cas. Ins. Co. of Am., No. SA-CV016-01397-CJC-SSx, 2016 WL 5213901, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 19, 2016) and Johnson v. Columbia Props. Anchorage, LP, 437 F.3d 894, 899 (9th Cir. 2006).) Plaintiff argues removal is thus warranted because Defendants did not establish the citizenship of their members. (Mot. at 6.)

         Defendant argues that for CAFA specifically, unincorporated associations are “deemed to be a citizen of the State where it has its principal place of business and the State under whose laws it is organized.” (Opp'n at 4 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(10).) Defendants further argue that even under the standard articulated by Plaintiff, minimal diversity is established.

         Defendants state SMX is organized under the laws of and has its principal place of business in Illinois, and that its only member is TrueBlue Services, Inc., which both is incorporated in and has its principal place of business in Washington.[1] (Declaration of Todd Gilman in support of Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand ¶ 5.) Further, Amazon and its members are all organized under the laws of Delaware and have their principal places of business in Washington. (Declaration of Mark Hoffman in support of Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand ¶¶ 3-6.) Because Plaintiff is a citizen of California, whether LLC citizenship is determined by the citizenship of its members or by its principal place of business and state under the laws of which it is organized for purposes of CAFA, minimal diversity would be established here.

         B. Amount in Controversy

         “A defendant's notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold. Evidence establishing the amount is required by § 1446(c)(2)(B) only when the plaintiff contests, or the court questions, the defendant's allegation.” Armstrong v. Ruan Transp. Corp., No. EDCV-16-1143-VAP(SPx), 2016 WL 6267931, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 25, 2016) (citing Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). When damages are unstated in a plaintiff's complaint, a defendant seeking removal has the burden of establishing that the aggregate amount in controversy from the plaintiff's claims exceeds $5, 000, 000. Ibarra v. Manheim Investments, Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015). A removing defendant must make this showing by the preponderance of the evidence, Rodriguez v. AT & T Mobility Servs. LLC, 728 F.3d 975, 981 (9th Cir. ...


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