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Singh v. Lowe's Home Centers, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 10, 2018

PAUL SINGH and ANDREA SINGH, Plaintiffs,
v.
LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, LLC, and DOES 1-50, inclusive Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION TO DISMISS, MOTION TO REMAND, AND MOTION TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

          WILLIAM B. SHUBB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Paul Singh and Andrea Singh initiated this action against defendants Lowe's Home Centers, LLC ("Lowe's) and Does 1 through 50, bringing claims for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, vicarious liability, and negligent supervision, instruction, and training. (First Amended Compl. ("FAC") (Docket No. 1., Ex. B).) Presently before the court are plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Docket No. 7); plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint (Docket No. 9); and Lowe's Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, for More Definite Statement (Docket No. 4) .

         I. Motion to Remand

         Generally, jurisdiction is a preliminary matter that should be resolved before all others. Smith v. Mail Boxes, Etc., 191 F.Supp.2d 1155, 1157 (E.D. Cal. 2002)("[J]urisdictional issues should be resolved before the court determines if a stay is appropriate."). Accordingly, the court will first address plaintiff's Motion to Remand.

         A. Legal Standard

         "[A]ny civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district . . . where such action is pending." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). However, if "it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). On a motion to remand, the defendant bears the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that federal jurisdiction is appropriate. Geographic Expeditions, Inc. v. Estate of Lhotka, 599 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

         B. Discussion

         Federal courts have original jurisdiction over cases where complete diversity exists between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). To satisfy the requirements for complete diversity, "each of the plaintiffs must be a citizen of a different state than each of the defendants." Morris v. Princess Cruises, Inc., 236 F.3d 1061, 1067 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Caterpillar Inc. v. Lewis, 519 U.S. 61, 68 (1996)).

         Plaintiffs initiated this case in Sutter County Superior Court, and Lowe's removed it to federal court, alleging that "it is a civil action wherein the matter in controversy exceeds the sum of $75, 000.00, " and additionally alleging that "the action is between citizens of different states." (Notice of Removal (Docket No. 1) ¶ 17.) Defendants include Lowe's, the sole named defendant, as well as Does 1 through 50. It is undisputed that plaintiffs were, and presently remain, residents of California, while Lowe's is a citizen of North Carolina. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.)

         Plaintiffs argue that the presence of doe defendants destroys complete diversity and thus precludes removal. However, it is well established that "[i]n determining whether a civil action is removable on the basis of jurisdiction under section 1332(a) . . . the citizenship of defendants sued under fictitious names shall be disregarded." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(1). From this language, the Ninth Circuit has concluded that "Congress obviously reached the conclusion that doe defendants should not defeat diversity jurisdiction." Bryant v. Ford Motor Co., 886 F.2d 1526, 1528 (9th Cir. 1989). Therefore, because the court will disregard the citizenship of all doe defendants, it concludes that complete diversity exists under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Further, there is no debate regarding the satisfaction of the $75, 000 requirement. Accordingly, the court concludes that this action was removable and will deny plaintiffs' Motion to Remand.

         It is possible that plaintiffs may later seek leave to add a nondiverse party. In the event that occurs, "the court may deny joinder, or permit joinder and remand the action to the State court." Newcombe v. Adolf Coors Co., 157 F.3d 686, 690 (9th Cir. 1998)(explaining that if after removal plaintiff seeks to join additional defendants whose joinder would destroy subject matter jurisdiction, court has discretion to deny).

         II. Leave to Amend

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 empowers parties to agree to amendments and alternatively directs the court to freely grant leave to amend "when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). "[T]his policy is to be applied with extreme liberality." Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Rose, 893 F.2d 1074, 1079 (9th Cir. 1990). Whether to grant or deny leave to amend is ...


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