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Collins v. Fua

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 28, 2017

Harold L. Collins
v.
George Alani Fua

          Present: The Honorable Virginia A. Phillips, Chief United States District Judge

          CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

         Proceedings: Minute Order re Defendant's Motion for Remand (In Chambers)

         On April 28, 2017, Plaintiff Harold L. Collins filed a motion to remand. (Doc. No. 13.) This matter is appropriate for resolution without hearing pursuant to Local Rule 7-15 and will stand submitted on the papers timely filed. Having considered the papers filed in support of the motion, the Court GRANTS the motion.

         I. Background

         On February 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint in California Superior Court for the County of Riverside against Defendants George Alani Fua, SAI, Inc., FUA Construction, Smart Power LLC, Sosiua L. Sekona, Kapiolani L. Sikahema, Fifita Tupe, and Advance Energy Solutions. (Doc. No. 1-1.) Defendant Sekona removed this action on March 29, 2017, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 1.)

         II. Analysis

         No defendant filed an opposition to Plaintiff's motion to remand. That alone is sufficient reason to grant the motion. See L.R. 7-12 (“The failure to file any required document, or the failure to file it within the deadline, may be deemed consent to the granting or denial of the motion.”). Even proceeding to the merits of Plaintiff's motion, the Court is persuaded that Sekona's removal was improper.

         A. Diversity Jurisdiction

         A party may invoke the Court's diversity jurisdiction, under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, in “all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds . . . $75, 000 . . . and is between [c]itizens of different States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Where subject-matter jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1332, complete diversity of citizenship is required. Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978). In other words, a court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction “unless each defendant is a citizen of a different State from each plaintiff.” Id. For the purpose of establishing diversity jurisdiction, a corporation is a citizen of both the state in which it is incorporated and the state in which it maintains its principal place of business. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1). “The ‘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).

         Plaintiff is a citizen of California. (Doc. No. 14 at 10.) In his notice of removal, Sekona asserts that he is a citizen of Utah. (Doc. No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff disputes that assertion and argues Sekona is a citizen of California. (Doc. No. 14 at 12.) “The natural person's state citizenship is . . . determined by her state of domicile, not her state of residence. A person's domicile is her permanent home, where she resides with the intention to remain or to which she intends to return.” Kanter v. Warner-Lambert Co., 265 F.3d 853, 857 (9th Cir. 2001).

         Sekona appears to be a citizen of California. Plaintiff submitted official business records from Sekona's company, Smart Power LLC, which lists Sekona's address as being in California. (Doc. No. 16-3 at 3.) In addition, Plaintiff submitted an email Sekona sent him in which Sekona states that his “home address” is in California, but that his “physical address” is at his mother's house in Utah. (Doc. No. 15-1 at 2.) Sekona, on the other hand, has offered no evidence to establish that he is a citizen of Utah.

         Even if the Court were to assume Sekona is domiciled in Utah, Plaintiff has presented unrebutted evidence that two other defendants-Tupe and Smart Power LLC-are citizens of California. (Doc. Nos. 14 at 6-7, 12; 16-3 at 2.) Thus, based on the evidence presently in the record, Sekona has not met his burden of establishing complete diversity of citizenship.[1]

         B. Attorney's Fees

         Plaintiff requests the Court award him attorney's fees. On granting a motion for remand, a court may, at its discretion, order the defendant to pay plaintiff its “just costs and any actual expenses, including attorney fees, incurred as a result of the removal.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). “[A]bsent unusual circumstances, attorney's fees should not be awarded when the removing party has an objectively reasonable basis for removal.” Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 136 (2005). It is not necessary, however, ...


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