United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND RE: DKT. NO.
J. DAVILA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Nikita Santino and Aaron Rabbanian (collectively,
“Plaintiffs”) move to remand this putative class
action to Los Angeles County Superior Court on the basis that
Defendant Apple Inc. (“Apple”) has failed to show
that any member of the putative class is a non-California
citizen. This Court agrees that Apple has not met its initial
burden and GRANTS Plaintiffs' motion to remand.
January 2018, Plaintiffs initiated this putative class action
against Apple in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Dkt. No.
1-1 (“Compl.”). Plaintiffs assert a number of
causes of action under California law based on Apple's
alleged “intentional and purposeful degradation of
speed of Apple's iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models . .
. through software updates iOS 10.2.1 and above.”
Id. ¶ 1. In February 2018, Apple removed the
action to this Court under the Class Action Fairness Act of
2005 (“CAFA”). Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiffs now argue
that remand to state court is appropriate because CAFA's
minimal-diversity requirement is not satisfied. Dkt. No. 12.
action case may be removed under CAFA when there is minimal
diversity of citizenship between the parties, the proposed
class has at least 100 members, and the amount in controversy
exceeds $5 million. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). For present
purposes, the crucial element is the minimal-diversity
requirement. In the statute's words, “[one] member
of [the] class of plaintiffs [must be] a citizen of a State
different from [one] defendant.” Id. §
1332(d)(2)(A); Chan Healthcare Grp., PS v. Liberty Mut.
Fire Ins. Co., 844 F.3d 1133, 1137 (9th Cir. 2017)
(explaining that, under CAFA, “one plaintiff [must be]
a citizen of a different state than one defendant”). As
the removing party, Apple carries the burden of establishing
this element. See Kuxhausen v. BMW Fin. Servs. NA
LLC, 707 F.3d 1136, 1141 (9th Cir. 2013). Because Apple
is a citizen of California and the sole defendant, Compl.
¶ 15, the relevant question is whether at least one
member of Plaintiffs' proposed classes is a
urges the Court to narrowly focus attention on
Plaintiffs' proposed class definitions, which define the
classes as “[a]ll California residents who purchased
any of the [relevant iPhone models]” with iOS 10.2.1
pre-installed or later installed. Id. ¶ 46. If
such a limited inquiry were appropriate, Apple would have a
stronger argument that Plaintiffs' putative classes
include non-California citizens: the law permits residence in
one state but citizenship in another, and Plaintiffs'
class definitions reference only the former. See Kanter
v. Warner-Lambert Co., 265 F.3d 853, 857 (9th Cir. 2001)
(“A person residing in a given state is not necessarily
domiciled there, and thus is not necessarily a citizen of
that state.”). But Apple offers no persuasive support for
its blinkered approach. In fact, Apple's own authority
recognizes that while “courts generally look to the
plaintiff's proposed class definition, ” other
allegations and statements in the plaintiff's remand
motion may also be considered. Gallagher v. Johnson &
Johnson Consumer Cos., 169 F.Supp.3d 598, 603 (D.N.J.
2016). Although the class definitions play an important role,
they are not the controlling factor. See Garcia v. Task
Ventures, LLC, No. 16-CV-00809-BAS, 2016 WL 7093915, at
*4 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 6, 2016).
the Court widens the lens beyond Plaintiffs' class
definitions, another allegation in the complaint is all but
dispositive. Specifically, the complaint alleges that
“Plaintiffs, members of the proposed Classes, and
Defendant are all citizens of California.” Compl.
¶ 11. The most natural reading of that sentence is that
all members of the classes, including Plaintiffs, are
citizens of California. Apple construes the language to say
that some class members are California citizens, but
that interpretation requires mangling the words or adding
words that are not there. The Court opts for the construction
which hews to the language by recognizing that
“all” of the listed persons (“Plaintiffs,
members of the proposed Classes, and Defendant”) are
“citizens of California.” So understood, the
allegation strongly favors Plaintiffs' interpretation,
which produces coherence across the pleadings by giving
meaning to all of the allegations, over Apple's
interpretation, which asks the Court to disregard that
paragraph in the complaint. The Court also rejects
Apple's related attempt to override the clear statement
in Plaintiffs' complaint by reference to case law because
none of Apple's cited authority involved such an explicit
allegation bearing on the citizenship of the class members.
Plaintiffs have “clarified in [their] motion to remand
that the class members in this action are [California]
citizens.” Gallagher, 169 F.Supp.3d at 604.
Plaintiffs' clarification is wholly consistent with the
pleadings, and Plaintiffs are “master[s] of the
complaint.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482
U.S. 386, 398-99 (1987). Plaintiffs' understanding is
further reinforced by the fact that they allege causes of
action based on California law. See Rotenberg v. Brain
Research Labs LLC, No. 09-CV-02914-SC, 2009 WL 2984722,
at *3 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 15, 2009) (“Plaintiff's
interpretation of his own Complaint is bolstered by the fact
that it invokes only causes of action founded in California
statutory law.”). The Court does not suggest that these
additional considerations are dispositive, but they better
lend themselves to Plaintiffs' interpretation. Apple does
not identify any similar indicators that point the other way.
sure, Plaintiffs' class definitions could have been
clearer. “[T]he plaintiffs might have defined their
class as all [California] citizens . . . . By using that
definition, the plaintiffs could have guaranteed that the
suit would remain in state court.” In re Sprint
Nextel Corp., 593 F.3d 669, 676 (7th Cir. 2010).
Nevertheless, the fairest reading of Plaintiffs'
complaint is that it restricts the putative classes to
California citizens. See Compl. ¶ 11
(“Plaintiffs, members of the proposed Classes, and
Defendant are all citizens of California.”). Because
Apple has not shown that the minimal-diversity requirement is
satisfied, this Court may not exercise jurisdiction under
CAFA. With no other basis of federal jurisdiction being
invoked or apparent, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' motion
Clerk shall remand this case to Los Angeles County Superior
Court and close the file.
 The Court notes, however, that
“[t]he place where a person lives is taken to be his
domicile until facts adduced establish the contrary.”
Anderson v. Watts, 138 U.S. 694, 706 (1891);
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