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Doan v. 3M Co.

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 11, 2017

Phung Minh Doan
v.
3M Company.

          Present: The Honorable James V. Selna

          CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

         Proceedings: (In Chambers) Order Granting Plaintiff's Motion to Remand and Denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         Plaintiffs Phung Minh Doan and Thu Anh Tran, Co-Administrators for the estate of the Minh Tran (collectively, the “Administrators”) moved to remand this case to state court. (Mot., Docket No. 14.) Defendant 3M Company (“3M”) opposed. (Opp'n, Docket No. 18, 1:18-19.) Defendant Jennifer Linh Tang (“Tang”) has consented to the removal but not opposed the motion.[1] (See Resp., Docket No. 31.) The Administrators replied. (Reply, Docket No. 25.)

         3M moved to dismiss the case. (Mot., Docket No. 20.) The Administrators opposed. (Opp'n, Docket No. 33.) 3M replied. (Reply, Docket No. 38.)

         For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion to remand and denies the motion to dismiss.

         I. Background

         This case concerns the administration of The Minh Tran's (the “decedent”) estate by the Administrators. On December 29, 2015, the decedent died intestate and, on December 2, 2016, the Administrators became the Co-Administrators of his estate.

         In or around February 2005, the decedent and Tang married. (Decl., Docket No. 14-1 Ex. 2 (“the agreement”), Sect. A.) They separated on January 1, 2008. (Id.) On October 20, 2009, Tang and the decedent entered into the Marital Settlement Agreement (“the agreement”). (Id. at 7.) Pursuant to this agreement, on February 6, 2010, the marriage ended in divorce. (Id. at Final Judgement.) The agreement is part of the final judgement. (See id.)

         Through his employment at 3M, the decedent held a 3M VIP 401(k) Plan (“VIP Plan”). (Mot. to Remand.) In section 4B of the agreement, both parties agreed to transfer “rights, title, and interest in any and all 401(k), retirement, and/or pension plans . . . including husband['s] 401(k) at 3M.” (The Agreement at Sect. 4B.) In addition, Section 4E of the agreement states that “if either party fail[s] to execute the documents necessary to effectuate the transfer of the property described above, then Husband and Wife agree that the Clerk of the Court for the County of Orange shall execute said documents on behalf of the party who failed to execute the same.” (Id. at 4E.)

         The Administrators assert that 3M transferred the VIP Plan to Tang in a manner inconsistent with Section 4E of the agreement. (Memo., Docket No.14, 5:10-12.) 3M asserts that the decedent named Tang as his beneficiary to the VIP Plan and did not change this designation after the dissolution of the marriage or before his death. (See Opp'n at 1:27-2:1.) Thus, through Probate Code § 850, the Administrators sought to enforce the state court divorce decree and the settlement agreement which is part of the judgement.

         The Administrators filed suit in Orange County Superior Court on February 15, 2017, demanding 3M turn over the VIP Plan to the estate and requesting that Tang adhere to Section 4E of the agreement. (See Ntc., Docket No. 1.) 3M received notice of this suit on March 3, 2017. (See id.) On March 28, 2017, 3M removed the case to the Central District of California under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441(a), and 1446. (See Ntc., Docket No. 1.)

         The Administrators now ask for the Court to remand this case to the Superior Court of Orange County.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal jurisdiction over a civil action is proper if the district court has “original jurisdiction . . . under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (2016).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant may remove a civil action from state court to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction. See City of Chicago v. Int'l Coll. of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 163 (1997). According to the Ninth Circuit, courts should “strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). Moreover, a court should resolve doubts as to removability in favor of remanding the case to the state court. Id. This strong presumption “against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper.” Id.

         For remand, 28 U.S.C § 1447(c) states that “a motion to remand the case on the basis of any defect other than lack of subject matter jurisdiction must be made within 30 days after ...


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