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Castillo v. ABM Industries Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 20, 2017

YENI CASTILLO, Plaintiff,
v.
ABM INDUSTRIES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REMAND

          HONORABLE ANDRÉ BIROTTE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Motion to Remand filed by Plaintiff Yeni Castillo (“Plaintiff”). Dkt. No. 12. Defendants ABM Industries Incorporated and ABM Onsite Services, Inc. (collectively, “Defendants”) filed an opposition, and Plaintiff filed a reply. The Court heard oral arguments regarding the Motion on November 17, 2017. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) against Defendants and Claudia Alarcon. Dkt. No. 1-8. Plaintiff is a California resident. FAC, ¶ 2. Defendant ABM Industries Incorporated is a corporation incorporated in the State of Delaware and residing in the State of New York. Notice of Removal, ¶ 3 (Dkt. No. 1). Defendant ABM Onsite Services, Inc. is a corporation incorporated in the State of Delaware and residing in the State of Texas. Id. Ms. Alarcon resides in California. FAC, ¶ 5. On August 17, 2017, Plaintiff dismissed her claims against Ms. Alarcon. Dkt. No. 1-10.

         Through the FAC, Plaintiff alleges that she spent 14 years working as a cleaner for the Inland Empire Health Plan. FAC, ¶¶ 18-19. Defendants took over the Inland Empire Health Plan facility around 2010. Id., ¶ 20. In April 2016, Plaintiff sustained an injury at work. Id., ¶ 23. After being placed on disability leave, Plaintiff resumed working for Defendants in May 2016. Id., ¶¶ 24, 25. Instead of working as a cleaner, Plaintiff performed office work full time. Id., ¶ 26. But in January 2017, Defendants informed Plaintiff that she would not be able to continue doing office work. Id., ¶¶ 28-29. Plaintiff claims she attempted to return to work, but Defendants failed to meet with her to determine which jobs she would be able to perform given her disability. Id., ¶¶ 34-36. Based on these allegations, Plaintiff asserts causes of action under the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (“FEHA”), wrongful termination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         On July 10, 2017, Plaintiff's counsel sent Defendants' counsel a settlement demand of $280, 000. Decl. Robert Matsuishi, ¶ 3, Ex. A (Dkt. No. 4-1). Plaintiff's counsel attached two jury verdicts to the settlement demand, claiming they came from cases “with very similar facts to [Plaintiff's] case.” Id.

         Defendants removed the case to this Court on September 15, 2017. See Notice of Removal. Defendants assert that the Court has diversity jurisdiction over the case because the parties are completely diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Id., ¶ 6. Plaintiff argues that Defendants cannot satisfy the amount in controversy requirement and moves for remand to state court. See Mot., at p. 1.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and thus have subject matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. See Bender v. Williamsport Area School Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). “Because of the Congressional purpose to restrict the jurisdiction of the federal courts on removal, ” statutes conferring jurisdiction are “strictly construed and federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Duncan v. Stuetzle, 76 F.3d 1480, 1485 (9th Cir. 1996) (citations and quotations omitted). There is a strong presumption that the Court is without jurisdiction until affirmatively proven otherwise. See Fifty Assocs. v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 446 F.2d 1187, 1190 (9th Cir. 1970). When an action is removed from state court, the removing party bears the burden of demonstrating that removal is proper. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).

         Federal diversity jurisdiction exists when the parties are completely diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, a defendant may remove an action from state court to federal court if the diversity and amount in controversy requirements are satisfied and if none of the defendants are citizens of the forum state.

         The amount in controversy, for purposes of diversity jurisdiction, 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.Appx. 646, 648 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Kenneth Rothschild Trust v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 199 F.Supp.2d 993, 1001 (C.D. Cal. 2002)).

         “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. And while “‘a defendant's notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold, ' . . . ‘[e]vidence establishing the amount is required'” when “defendant's assertion of the amount in controversy is contested by plaintiffs.” Ibarra v. Manheim Invs., Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014)). The defendant must establish the amount in controversy by the preponderance of the evidence. See Dart, 135 S.Ct. at 553-54.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The parties do not dispute that complete diversity exists between Plaintiff and Defendants. Subject matter jurisdiction therefore depends on ...


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