United States District Court, C.D. California
Present: The Honorable Fernando M. Olguin, United States
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
(In Chambers) Order Remanding Action
September 9, 2016, Alfreda Gleicher, as Trustee of the
Williams Trust, dated November 6, 1991
(“plaintiff”) filed a Complaint in the Los
Angeles County Superior Court against Hartford Underwriters
Insurance Company (“Hartford”), Christian Julian
Alexander (“Alexander”) and Audrey Angelica
Cavencia (“Cavencia” and together with Alexander,
“Individual Defendants”). (See Dkt. 1,
Notice of Removal (“NOR”) at ¶ 1; Dkt. 1-1,
Complaint; Dkt. 1-1, Amendment to Complaint
(“Amendment”) at ECF 49). The Complaint asserts
five claims for relief: (1) breach of contract; (2) breach of
the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (3)
elder abuse; (4) negligence; and (5) negligent entrustment.
(See Dkt. 1-1, Complaint at ¶¶ 55-100).
The first three claims are asserted against Hartford, the
fourth against Alexander, and the fifth claim against
Cavencia. (See id.). Plaintiff alleges that Norma
Williams (“Williams”), who was the trustor, and
before her death, the trustee of the Williams Trust, dated
November 6, 1991, purchased an insurance policy from Hartford
that insured her property, located on Penmar Street in Los
Angeles, California. (See id. at ¶ 8).
September 11, 2014, an automobile being driven at an unsafe
speed by an intoxicated Alexander, “collided into the
front of the Property in which  Williams was residing and
present, causing the destruction of a substantial portion of
the Property and substantial damage to the remaining portions
of the Property.” (Dkt. 1-1, Complaint at ¶ 13).
The damage to the property was extensive. Among other things,
the “house shifted on the foundation, became unlevel
and unsafe and the heat was disconnected because the impact
of the vehicle striking the house was so significant that it
substantially disturbed the gas feed to the heater.”
(Id. at ¶ 16). Asbestos was released into the
air because the “original ducting was disturbed”
and cracks appeared in walls and ceilings. (See
id.). The damage rendered the home “unsafe to
reside in.” (Id. at ¶ 18).
passed away on November 4, 2014, due to complications caused
by “COPD which, on information and belief, were
exacerbated by the manner in which Hartford mishandled the
claim.” (Dkt. 1-1, Complaint at ¶ 22). Following
Williams's death, Gleicher became successor trustee and
pursued the claim with Hartford, which continued “its
unreasonable claims handling practices.” (Id.
at ¶ 23). According to plaintiff, although Williams
timely reported the accident to Hartford, (see id.
at ¶ 17), Hartford failed to address the extensive
damage, and instead “took the position that it would
pay only to repair localized damage.” (Id. at
¶¶ 19-20). Hartford also “acted unreasonably
with respect to obvious damage.” (Id. at
¶ 21). For instance, as of the death of Williams,
Hartford had made no effort to remove the debris that had
been piled in front of the house; did not put up a proper
vapor barrier and instead “caused a sheet of plywood to
be installed over the front of the house that allowed light
and air into the house, [even though] Hartford knew the house
was inhabited by an elder who had no heat and who was
suffering from dementia and other ailments.”
(Id.). Plaintiff alleges that “Hartford's
adjuster mocked and made fun of  Williams' mental
condition when she described the conditions she was living in
and questioned Hartford's adjustment of claims.”
January 31, 2107, Hartford removed that action on diversity
jurisdiction grounds pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332
and 1441. (See Dkt. 1, NOR at ¶ 3). Plaintiff
filed a Motion to Remand (Dkt. 11, “Motion”),
which Hartford opposed by referring to its briefing on its
pending motion to sever. (See Dkt. 17, Defendant
Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company's Memorandum of
Points and Authorities in Opposition to Plaintiff's
Motion to Remand). Having reviewed the pleadings, the court
hereby remands this action to state court for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only
that power authorized by Constitution and statute[.]”
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 1675 (1994). The courts are
presumed to lack jurisdiction unless the contrary appears
affirmatively from the record. See DaimlerChrysler Corp.
v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 342 n. 3, 126 S.Ct. 1854, 1861
(2006). Federal courts have a duty to examine jurisdiction
sua sponte before proceeding to the merits of a
case, see Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S.
574, 583, 119 S.Ct. 1563, 1569 (1999), “even in the
absence of a challenge from any party.” Arbaugh v.
Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 501, 126 S.Ct. 1235, 1237
general, “any civil action brought in a State court of
which the district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the
defendants, to the district court[.]” 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). A removing defendant bears the burden of
establishing that removal is proper. See Gaus v. Miles,
Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566-67 (9th Cir. 1992) (“The
strong presumption against removal jurisdiction means that
the defendant always has the burden of establishing that
removal is proper.”) (internal quotation marks
omitted); Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chem. Co., 443
F.3d 676, 684 (9th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (noting
the “longstanding, near-canonical rule that the burden
on removal rests with the removing defendant”).
Moreover, if there is any doubt regarding the existence of
subject matter jurisdiction, the court must resolve those
doubts in favor of remanding the action to state court.
See Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566 (“Federal
jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the
right of removal in the first instance.”). Indeed,
“[i]f at any time before final judgment it appears that
the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the
case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c);
see Kelton Arms Condo. Owners Ass'n, Inc. v.
Homestead Ins. Co., 346 F.3d 1190, 1192 (9th Cir. 2003)
(“Subject matter jurisdiction may not be waived, and,
indeed, we have held that the district court must remand if
it lacks jurisdiction.”); Washington v. United
Parcel Serv., Inc., 2009 WL 1519894, *1 (C.D. Cal. 2009)
(a district court may remand an action where the court finds
that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction either by motion or
SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION.
reviewed the NOR and the briefing on the Motion, the court is
persuaded that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the
instant matter. In other words, plaintiff could not have
originally brought this action in federal court, as plaintiff
does not competently allege facts supplying diversity
jurisdiction. Therefore, removal was improper. See
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Caterpillar, Inc. v.
Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 2429 (1987)
(“Only state-court actions that originally could have
been filed in federal court may be removed to federal court
by the defendant.”) (footnote omitted).
federal subject matter jurisdiction is predicated on
diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1332(a),
complete diversity must exist between the opposing parties.
See Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68, 117
S.Ct. 467, 472 (1996) (stating that the diversity
jurisdiction statute “applies only to cases in which
the citizenship of each plaintiff is diverse from the
citizenship of each defendant”). Here, plaintiff
appears to be a citizen of California. (See Dkt.
1-1, Complaint at ¶ 1). Hartford has shown that it is a
citizen of Connecticut. (See Dkt. 1, NOR at ¶
5). However, the Individual Defendants appear to be citizens
of California. (See Dkt. 1-1, Complaint at
¶¶ 4-5; Dkt. 1-1, Amendment; Dkt. 1, NOR at ¶
7) (failing to challenge allegations that Individual
Defendants are residents of California). Hartford contends,
however, that the ...