United States District Court, C.D. California
Ozoamaka Ogbozor, et al.
Macy's West Stores Inc., et al
Present: The Honorable ANDRE BIROTTE JR., United States
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
[In Chambers] Order Sua Sponte Remanding Case for
Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction
diversity jurisdiction. Defendants Macys's West Stores
Inc. and COTY Inc. ("Defendants") removed this case
from Los Angeles Superior Court on March 8, 2017. (Dkt. No.
1, Notice of Removal ("NOR") at 2.) The Court,
having reviewed the Notice of Removal and the materials
attached thereto, issued an Order to Show Cause
("OSC") requiring Defendants to demonstrate that
the amount in controversy in this case exceeds $75, 000.
(Dkt. No. 10.) Defendants timely filed a brief addressing the
issue. (Dkt. No. 11.) For the following reasons, the Court
finds Defendants have not established the Court has subject
matter jurisdiction to hear this case. The Court therefore
sua sponte REMANDS this case to Los Angeles Superior
courts of limited jurisdiction, federal courts have subject
matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the
Constitution and Congress. See 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). A removed action must be remanded to
state court if the federal court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
28 U.S.C. § 1441, a defendant may remove an action from
state court to federal court on the basis of diversity
jurisdiction if “none of the parties in interest
properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the
State in which such action is brought.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441. Diversity jurisdiction requires that the parties
be in complete diversity and the amount in controversy exceed
$75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
amount in controversy is the total “amount at stake in
the underlying litigation.” Theis Research, Inc. v.
Brown & Bain, 400 F.3d 659, 662 (9th Cir. 2005).
“[I]n assessing the amount in controversy, a court must
‘assume that the allegations of the complaint are true
and assume that a jury will return a verdict for the
plaintiff on all claims made in the complaint.'”
Campbell v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 471 Fed. App'x
646, 648 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Kenneth Rothschild
Trust v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 199 F.Supp.2d 993,
1001 (C.D. Cal. 2002)).
‘strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction
means that the defendant always has the burden of
establishing that removal is proper.” Gaus v.
Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992); see
also Prize Frize, Inc. v. Matrix (U.S.) Inc., 167 F.3d
1261, 1265 (9th Cir. 1999), superseded by statute on
other grounds as stated in Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chem.
Co., 443 F.3d 676, 681 (9th Cir. 2006) (“The
burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is on the party
seeking removal, and the removal statute is strictly
construed against removal jurisdiction.”); Martinez
v. Los Angeles World Airports, No. CV-14-9128-PA-PLAx,
2014 WL 6851440, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 2, 2014). “Where
it is not facially evident from the complaint that more than
$75, 000 is in controversy, the removing party must prove, by
a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in
controversy meets the jurisdictional threshold.”
Merricks-Barragan v. Maidenform, Inc., No.
CV-11-07965-SJO-MRWx, 2011 WL 5173653, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Oct.
31, 2011) (citing Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins.
Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003).
“Conclusory allegations as to the amount in controversy
are insufficient.” Matheson, 319 F.3d at
1090-91 (citing Gaus, 980 F.2d at 567).
“[R]ather, defendant[s] must state the underlying facts
supporting [their] assertion that the amount in controversy
is met.” Killion v. AutoZone Stores Inc., No.
5:10-CV-01978, 2011 WL 590292, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 8, 2011)
(citing Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115,
1117 (9th Cir. 2004).
Court raises the issue of subject matter jurisdiction sua
sponte. See Snell v. Cleveland, Inc., 316 F.3d 822, 826
(9th Cir. 2002) (stating district courts “may raise the
question of subject matter jurisdiction, sua sponte,
at any time during the pendency of the action”); 28
U.S.C. 1447(c) (“If at any time before final judgment
it appears that the district court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.”)
Complaint alleges claims for violations of the Unruh Civil
Rights Act and negligent and intentional infliction of
emotional distress arising from an incident in a Macy's
department store in which a Macy's employee called
Plaintiffs “a stupid black bitch.” (NOR, Ex. 1 at
9, 11.) Plaintiffs seek general and special damages,
“up to three times actual damages but in no case less
than four thousand dollars ($4, 000), pursuant to Civil Code
section 52, ” attorneys' fees, punitive damages,
costs, and injunctive relief. (Id. at 14.) The
Complaint lacks any other indication of the amount in
controversy, though the Civil Case Cover Sheet filed in Los
Angeles Superior Court indicates the case was filed as
unlimited civil case, demanding more than $25, 000 in
damages. (Id. at 16.)
Notice of Removal asserts this Court has diversity
jurisdiction over this case under 28 U.S.C. § 1332
because “it is a civil action between citizens of
different states and the amount in controversy exceeds the
sum of $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs.”
(NOR at ¶ 5.) Though Defendants proceeded to allege
there was complete diversity between the named parties, they
made no further allegations about the amount in controversy.
(Id. at ¶ 6.) The Court found this single
conclusory allegation about the amount in controversy
insufficient to meet Defendants' burden to establish that
removal is proper, and issued an OSC requiring Defendants to
demonstrate why the case should not be remanded for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 10.)
to the OSC, Defendants contend the amount in controversy is
satisfied because attorneys' fees and punitive damages
are authorized by the Unruh Civil Rights Act. (Dkt. No. 11,
Defs.' Br. at 4.) Specifically, Defendants argue that,
here, where the Plaintiffs seek recovery for attorneys'
fees and punitive damages that are authorized by statute, the
Court must consider such amounts in determining if the amount
in controversy requirement is satisfied. Defendants submit
that although the precise amount of damages in unclear, it is