United States District Court, S.D. California
DANIEL L. BLOOMQUIST, an individual on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
COVANCE, INC., et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND [ECF
Cynthia Bashant, United States District Judge
August 3, 2016, Plaintiff Daniel L. Bloomquist commenced this
wage-and-hour class action in San Diego Superior Court
against Defendants Covance, Inc. (“Covance”),
I-Shan Chiang, and Amy Stastny. Covance subsequently removed
this action to federal court. Bloomquist now moves to remand
this action to state court. (ECF No. 7.) Covance opposes.
Court finds this motion suitable for determination on the
papers submitted and without oral argument. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 78(b); Civ. L.R. 7.1(d)(1). For the following
reasons, the Court GRANTS Bloomquist's motion to remand.
is a citizen of California, and worked for Covance
continuously from February 2009 until December 2015. (Compl.
¶ 5.) Covance is a Delaware corporation whose principle
place of business is in Princeton, New Jersey, with a
regional office in San Diego, California. (Id.
¶ 6.) Chiang and Stastny are citizens of the state of
California, and are employed by Covance as the Senior
Director of Strategy and Planning, and the Director of Global
Clinical Trial Operations, respectively (collectively,
“in-state defendants”). (Id.
¶¶ 7-8.) Bloomquist brings this class action on
behalf of himself and all others similarly situated as
current and former employees of Covance holding the title of
Clinical Research Associate and/or Senior Clinical Research
Associate at any time commencing on the date four years prior
to the filing of the complaint and through the date of trial.
(Id. ¶ 12.)
offers clinical development services in fifty-five different
countries, providing services through all stages of
pharmaceutical drug development. (Compl. ¶ 21.) Covance
is typically hired by pharmaceutical drug companies to assist
in administering clinical trials for newly developed and
unapproved drug compounds. (Id.) Clinical Research
Associates and Senior Clinical Research Associates monitor
clinical trials by conducting routine visits to trial sites
and reporting the results of those visits to their superiors
at Covance. (Id. ¶ 24-25.) Bloomquist alleges
that Clinical Research Associates and Senior Clinical
Research Associates were improperly classified by Covance as
exempt employees ineligible for certain protections of the
California Labor Code and Wage Order of the Industrial
Welfare Commissions. (Id. ¶ 26.) As a result of
this improper classification, Bloomquist alleges that he, and
others, were denied overtime pay, meal periods, and rest
periods prescribed by law. (Id. ¶ 28-29, 33.)
August 3, 2016, Bloomquist commenced this action against
Covance, Chiang, and Stastny in the San Diego Superior Court,
asserting causes of action against all defendants for: (1)
failure to pay overtime compensation; (2) failure to provide
meal periods and rest periods; (3) failure to properly
itemize wage statements; (4) failure to pay all wages due
owed upon termination; and (5) unlawful and unfair business
practices in violation of California's Business and
Professions Code § 17200, et seq
(Compl ¶¶ 34-81.)
notice of removal, Covance asserts the basis for removal is
diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d), the
Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”). (Removal
Notice ¶ 8, ECF No. 1.) Bloomquist now moves to remand
based on a CAFA exception known as the “local
controversy exception, ” which requires federal courts
to decline jurisdiction if certain conditions are met in
cases that are truly local in nature. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(d)(4). Covance opposes.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.”
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377 (1994). “They possess only that power
authorized by Constitution or a statute, which is not to be
expanded by judicial decree.” Id. (internal
citations omitted). “It is to be presumed that a cause
lies outside this limited jurisdiction and the burden of
establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting
jurisdiction.” Id. (internal citations
omitted); see also Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chem.
Co., 443 F.3d 676, 684 (9th Cir. 2006).
with the limited jurisdiction of federal courts, the removal
statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction.
Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.
1992); see also Sygenta Crop Prot. v. Henson, 537
U.S. 28, 32 (2002); O'Halloran v. Univ. of
Wash., 856 F.2d 1375, 1380 (9th Cir. 1988). “The
strong presumption against removal jurisdiction means that
the defendant always has the burden of establishing that
removal is proper.” Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566;
see also Nishimoto v. Federman-Bachrach &
Assoc., 903 F.2d 709, 712 n.3 (9th Cir. 1990);
O'Halloran, 856 F.2d at 1380. “Federal
jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the
right of removal in the first instance.” Gaus,
980 F.2d at 566.
confers federal jurisdiction over class actions involving:
(1) minimal diversity; (2) at least 100 putative class
members; and (3) at least $5 million in controversy,
inclusive of attorneys' fees but exclusive of interest
and costs. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1223(d)(2), (5). CAFA
maintains the historical rule that places the burden on the
removing party to establish a prima facie case of
removal jurisdiction. Serrano v. 180 Connect, Inc.,
478 F.3d 1018, 1020 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Abrego,
443 F.3d at 684-85). However, when a plaintiff moving to
remand seeks to rely on a statutory exception to CAFA, the
burden shifts to the plaintiff to prove by a preponderance of
the evidence that the exception, such as the
local-controversy exception, applies to the facts of a given
case. Mondragon v. Capital One Auto Finance, 736
F.3d 880, 883 (9th Cir. 2013); Coleman v. Estes Express
Lines, Inc., 631 F.3d 1010, 1013 (9th Cir. 2011);
Serrano, 478 F.3d at 1019, 1022. But the burden of
proof placed upon a plaintiff should not be exceptionally
difficult to bear, and district courts are permitted to make
reasonable inferences from facts in evidence in applying
CAFA's local-controversy exception. Mondragon,
736 F.3d at 886.
local-controversy exception is intended to identify a
controversy that “uniquely affects a particular
locality and to ensure that it is decided by a state rather
than a federal court.” Bridewell-Sledge v. Blue
Cross of Cal., 789 F.3d 923, 928 (9th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Evans, 449 F.3d at 1163-64)). CAFA's
language favors federal jurisdiction over class actions, and
its legislative history suggests that Congress intended the
local-controversy exception to be a narrow one. Benko v.