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Berkeley Research Group, LLC v. United Potato Growers Of America, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 13, 2017

BERKELEY RESEARCH GROUP, LLC, a California limited liability company, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED POTATO GROWERS OF AMERICA, INC., an Idaho corporation; UNITED POTATO GROWERS OF IDAHO, INC., an Idaho corporation; IDAGRO, INC., an Idaho corporation; ALBERT WADA, an Idaho resident; WADA FARMS, INC., an Idaho corporation; WADA FARMS POTATOES, INC., an Idaho corporation; WADA FARMS MARKETING GROUP, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company; WADA-VAN ORDEN POTATOES, INC., an Idaho corporation; CEDAR FARMS, INC., an Idaho corporation; WADA FAMILY, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company; PROFRESH, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company; JEFF RAYBOULD, an Idaho resident; RAYBOULD BROTHERS FARMS, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company' MICHAEL CRANNEY, an Idaho resident; CORNELISON FARMS, INC., a former Idaho corporation; KEITH CORNELISON, an Idaho resident; SNAKE RIVER PLAINS POTATOES, INC., an Idaho corporation; LANCE FUNK, an Idaho resident; PLEASANT VALLEY POTATO, INC., an Idaho corporation; KCW FARMS, INC., an Idaho corporation; KIM WAHLEN, an Idaho resident; and DOES 1-100, Defendants.

          ORDER HOLDING MOTION TO REMAND IN ABEYANCE PENDING JURISDICTIONAL DISCOVERY

          WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff moves to remand this contract dispute to state court for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. For the reasons stated herein, the motion will be Held in Abeyance pending limited jurisdictional discovery.

         STATEMENT

         This action arises out of an expert litigation consulting contract between plaintiff Berkeley Research Group and defendants - a group of potato farmers, farms, and growing associations. Defendants hired BRG to provide expert services in connection with a multi-district litigation in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho.[*]

         On November 1, 2016, defendants filed a breach of contract action in Idaho state court claiming BRG billed defendants inappropriately and provided substandard quality work. On November 18, BRG filed this breach of contract action in California state court, claiming defendants breached by not paying over eight-hundred thousand dollars in outstanding invoices. BRG served defendants in this action over a month before defendants served BRG in the Idaho action. Prior to serving BRG in the Idaho action, defendants removed this action to federal court.

         In late January 2017, BRG moved to dismiss the Idaho action pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(8) on the ground that another action was pending between the same parties for the same cause. In early February 2017, BRG filed this motion to remand for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

         More than two weeks later, defendants filed their opposition to this motion and separately filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or to transfer venue. Defendants also filed a motion to shorten time to hear their motion to dismiss. BRG opposed defendants' motion to shorten time and separately filed a motion to extend time to file their opposition to defendants' motion. Both timing motions were denied (Dkt. No. 18).

         Defendants were also allowed (and took) an opportunity to file a surreply to this motion after BRG filed new evidence in their reply (ibid.).

         BRG now asserts diversity is incomplete between them and defendants because United Potato Growers of America, Inc., one of the removing defendants, is a citizen of Utah, and at least four BRG limited liability company members have “a permanent, primary residence in Utah” (Pl.'s Reply Br. at 2). UPGA's Utah citizenship is not contested.

         This order follows full briefing and oral argument.

         ANALYSIS

         The issue presented is whether at least one of BRG's members is a citizen of Utah, and whether defendants should be permitted to engage in limited jurisdictional discovery.

         In determining diversity jurisdiction, a limited liability partnership is a citizen of every state in which its members are citizens. Our court of appeals has extended this rule to limited liability companies. Johnson v. Columbia Props. Anchorage, LP, 437 F.3d 894, 899 (9th Cir. 2006). Citizenship, for diversity jurisdiction, is synonymous with an individual's domicile. An individual's domicile is where she is both physically present and evinces an intention to remain there indefinitely. Lew v. Moss, 797 F.2d 747, 749-50 (9th Cir. 1986). In Lew, our court of appeals indicated a number of objective factors that evince an individual's domicile (none is dispositive alone): Current residence, voting registration and voting practices, location of personal and real property, location of brokerage ...


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