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Evangelista v. Just Energy Marketing Corp.

United States District Court, C.D. California, Southern Division

February 21, 2018

DANIEL EVANGELISTA, Plaintiff,
v.
JUST ENERGY MARKETING CORP., ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

          CORMAC J. CARNEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Daniel Evangelista filed this action on November 21, 2017, in Orange County Superior Court alleging various violations of the California labor law and asserting seven claims on behalf of a putative class against Just Energy Marketing Corp. (“JEMC”), Just Energy Solutions Inc. (“JES”), Just Energy Limited (“JEL”), Just Energy Group Inc. (“JEG”), and various Doe defendants. (Dkt. 1-2 [Complaint, hereinafter “Compl.”].) Defendants removed the action to this Court on December 29, 2017. (Dkt. 1.) Before the Court is Plaintiffs motion to remand this action to Orange County Superior Court. (Dkt. 14 [hereinafter “Mot”].) For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.[1]

         II. BACKGROUND

         Defendants are a Core Transport Agent, or a non-utility gas and electricity supplier that purchases gas or electricity at the wholesale level and sells it to residential and commercial end-use customers. (Compl. ¶ 12.) Defendant JEG is a citizen of Canada, and Defendants JEMC and JEL are citizens of Delaware. ( Id. . ¶¶ 4-5, 7.) Defendant JES is a citizen of California. (Id. ¶ 6.) Defendant JEMC was “nominally and contractually Plaintiffs employer.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges on information and belief that both JES and JEL are “affiliated with Defendant JEMC as subsidiaries of Defendant JEG that conduct business in the same manner in all respects material to this action and that coordinate their businesses such that they are not independent business enterprises.” (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.) Plaintiffs allegations collectively refer to all four named Defendants as “Just Energy, ” and his allegations do not differentiate between the actions of any named party. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 12-34.)

         Just Energy hired Plaintiff on July 25, 2017, to sell natural gas and electricity to residential customers as a door-to-door salesman employee. (Id. ¶¶ 13-15.) Plaintiff alleges various violations of the California Labor Code occurred during his employment, such as failure to pay overtime wages, failure to provide meal and rest breaks, and failure to reimburse employees for necessary expenditures. (See generally Id. ¶¶ 16-23.) Plaintiff alleges that he was retaliated against for reporting the unethical conduct of his supervisor, and chose to resign on October 11, 2017, after experiencing this alleged retaliation. (Id. ¶ 33.)

         Plaintiff filed this action on November 21, 2017, in Orange County Superior Court as a putative class action alleging seven causes of action on behalf of the class: failure to pay all wages due (e.g., overtime wages), failure to timely pay wages due at termination, failure to provide meal periods, failure to provide rest periods, knowing and intentional failure to comply with itemized employee wage statement provisions, failure to reimburse employees for necessary expenditures, and violation of the Unfair Competition Law. (Id. ¶¶ 44-73.) Plaintiff brings these seven causes of action on behalf of a proposed class of “all persons who performed door-to-door sales work for Just Energy during the four years preceding the date” the action was filed. (Id. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff also alleges two causes of action solely on his own behalf: retaliation and constructive discharge in violation of public policy. (Id. ¶¶ 74-89.)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A civil action brought in a state court, but over which a federal court may exercise original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant to a federal district court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “A suit may be removed to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) only if it could have been brought there originally.” Sullivan v. First Affiliated Sec., Inc., 813 F.2d 1368, 1371 (9th Cir. 1987); Infuturia Global Ltd. v. Sequus Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 631 F.3d 1133, 1135 n.1 (9th Cir. 2011) (“[A] federal court must have both removal and subject matter jurisdiction to hear a case removed from state court.”). The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1252 (9th Cir. 2006).

         Under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (“CAFA”), federal courts have original jurisdiction over a class action if (1) the parties are minimally diverse, (2) the proposed class has more than 100 members, and (3) the aggregated amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2), (d)(5)(B); see also Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554-55 (2014). By statute, a district court must decline to exercise jurisdiction over a class action if the “local controversy” exception applies. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4). “The local controversy exception to CAFA jurisdiction is a narrow exception, and Plaintiff[] bear[s] the burden of showing its application.” Allen v. Boeing Co., 821 F.3d 1111, 1116 (9th Cir. 2016) (citing Benko v. Quality Loan Serv. Corp., 789 F.3d 1111, 1116 (9th Cir. 2015)). “However, if the exception applies, the district court must remand the case to state court.” Id. (citing Serrano v. 180 Connect, Inc., 478 F.3d 1018, 1022 (9th Cir. 2007)). The local controversy exception applies to a class action in which:

(I) greater than two-thirds of the members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate are citizens of the State in which the action was originally filed;
(II) at least 1 defendant is a defendant-
(aa) from whom significant relief is sought by members of the plaintiff class;
(bb) whose alleged conduct forms a significant basis for the claims asserted by the ...

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