United States District Court, C.D. California
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND 
AND DENYING AS MOOT PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE, UNITED STATES
action is a wrongful death suit brought by the heirs of a man
killed while picking up and dropping off trailers,
containers, and loads at the Port of Long Beach, which
Defendant SSA Terminals LLC owns and operates. Plaintiffs
originally filed the action in the Los Angeles Superior Court
on June 10, 2016, and on July 29, 2016, Defendants SSA
Terminals LLC and California Multimodal, LLC (collectively,
“Defendants”) removed the case to federal court.
(Compl., ECF No. 1-1; Not. of Removal, ECF No. 1.) On
February 24, 2017, Plaintiffs moved to remand the case. (ECF
No. 18.) Plaintiffs also requested an award of attorneys'
fees based on Defendants' wrongful removal.
(Id.) On February 27, 2017, Defendants moved to
compel arbitration. (ECF No. 19.) On March 29, 2017, the
Court received a notification via telephone that the case had
settled, and as a result, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show
cause by June 7, 2017, as to why settlement had not been
finalized. (ECF No. 29.) Over a month later, on May 16, 2017,
Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Case Status, informing the Court
that the matter had in fact not settled, and requesting that
the Court rule on the pending Motion to Remand. (ECF No. 30.)
For the reasons discussed herein, the Court GRANTS
Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand, AWARDS Plaintiffs
attorneys' fees, and DENIES AS MOOT Defendants'
Petition to Compel Arbitration.
assert two causes of action: wrongful death under a theory of
negligence, and wrongful death under a theory of premises
liability. (Compl. ¶¶ 17- 40.) Plaintiffs do not
directly assert any federal law causes of action.
Defendants' basis for removal is that the action
“arises under an Act of Congress regulating commerce
within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1337(a), to wit: the
United States Shipping Act of 1984.” (Not. of Removal
2.) Defendants state that the United States Shipping Act
regulates Marine Terminal Operators engaged in interstate
commerce, such as SSA. (Id. at 3.) Therefore,
according to Defendants, “[t]he litigation of this
action will necessarily involve interpretation of the United
States Shipping Act and related federal law applicable to the
parties at the time of the incident.” (Id.)
courts have subject matter jurisdiction only as authorized by
the Constitution and Congress. U.S. Const. art. III, §
2, cl. 1; see also 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 only if the federal
court would have had original jurisdiction over the suit. 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). Federal courts have original
jurisdiction where an action arises under federal law,
id. § 1331, or where each plaintiff's
citizenship is diverse from each defendant's citizenship
and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, id.
§ 1332(a). The removal statute is strictly construed
against removal, and “[f]ederal jurisdiction must be
rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in
the first instance.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980
F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). The removing party bears the
burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Durham v.
Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1252 (9th Cir.
Plaintiffs plainly do not allege any federal cause of action,
courts have held that federal question jurisdiction still
exists where “plaintiff's right to relief
necessarily depends on a resolution of a substantial question
of federal law.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Const.
Laborers Vacation Tr., 463 U.S. 1, 27-28 (1983). But
while Defendants point out that the U.S. Shipping Act is
relevant to this action, its relationship to Plaintiffs'
Complaint does not rise to the level of conferring federal
jurisdiction. Defendants attempt to convince the Court that
Plaintiffs' case “arises out of federal law”
(Opp'n 5, ECF No. 23), but that characterization is
inaccurate. Negligence and premises liability do not on their
face raise questions of federal law, and in fact, Plaintiffs
dispute that the U.S. Shipping Act even applies to their
claims. (See Mot. 4.) Though Defendants would like
for the U.S. Shipping Act to control this action, there is no
clear indication that it will. Determining whether a federal
question exists is not about reading between the lines or
considering what federal statutes might come up
during the litigation-federal question jurisdiction must
exist “on the face of plaintiff's properly pleaded
complaint.” Republican Party of Guam v.
Gutierrez, 277 F.3d 1086, 1089 (9th Cir. 2002). As such,
the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand.
Court also AWARDS Plaintiffs attorneys' fees pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (“An order remanding the case
may require payment of just costs and any actual expenses,
including attorney fees, incurred as a result of
removal.”). Defendants' position in removing the
case was wrong as a matter of law, as Ninth Circuit precedent
is clear that a federal question must exist on the
face of a plaintiff's complaint in order to remove
on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. See
Republican Party of Guam, 277 F.3d at 1089. When a
defendant lacks an “objectively reasonable” basis
for removal, as Defendants do here, “fees should be
awarded” following remand. See Martin v. Franklin
Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 132 (2005). Plaintiffs
request $11, 550.00, reflecting fifteen hours of work at an
hourly rate of $550 as a result of the removal. (Teller Decl.
¶ 5, ECF No. 18.) The Court finds this amount reasonable
in light of other courts granting similar or higher amounts.
See, e.g., Moore v. Kaiser Found. Hosp., Inc., 765
F.Supp. 1464, 1467 (N.D. Cal. 1991) (awarding, in 1991, $9,
638.00 on remand); Albion Pac. Prop. Res., LLC v.
Seligman, 329 F.Supp.2d 1163, 1164 (N.D. Cal. 2004)
(awarding $27, 956.36 on remand).
Court therefore GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion (ECF No. 18),
and REMANDS this case to the Los Angeles Superior Court, Case
No. BC 623611. Defendants shall pay Plaintiffs Eleven
Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($11, 550.00) within
thirty days of the date of this Order. The Court also DENIES
AS MOOT Defendants' Petition to Compel Arbitration. (ECF
No. 19.) The Clerk of the Court shall close the case.