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Jackson v. Dollar Tree Distribution, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 23, 2018

Andrew Jackson
Dollar Tree Distribution, Inc. et al.

          Present: The Honorable Philip S. Gutierrez, United States District Judge.


         Proceedings (In Chambers): Order GRANTING Plaintiff's motion to remand

         Before the Court is a motion to remand action to state court filed by Plaintiff Andrew Jackson (“Plaintiff”). See Dkt. # 20 (“Mot.”). Defendant Dollar Tree Distribution, Inc. (“Defendant”) opposes the motion, see Dkt. # 21 (“Opp.”), and Plaintiff replied, see Dkt. # 26 (“Reply”). The Court finds the matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; L.R. 7-15. Having considered the moving papers, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to remand.

         I. Background

         From September 2014 until February 19, 2016, Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a fork-lift operator. See First Amended Complaint, Dkt. # 8 (“FAC”), ¶ 4. He claims that “[a]t all relevant times during his employment, ” he was “an exceptional, dedicated, and loyal employee who was reliable and performed excellent work.” Id. ¶ 16. He alleges that, during his employment with Defendant, he was “exposed to extreme heat and a constant barrage of dust blown from the desert into the warehouse” where he worked. Id. ¶ 19. After being forced to seek medical treatment due to his severe symptoms, Plaintiff claims that he was reprimanded by Defendant and admonished for missing work. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. He alleges to have eventually been diagnosed with pneumonia and Valley fever, which caused him to request workplace accommodations that were denied. Id. ¶¶ 24, 26. As both his condition and Defendant's treatment of him worsened, Plaintiff made complaints regarding unsafe working conditions that Defendant ignored. Id. ¶¶ 27-33, 40-42. Ultimately, Plaintiff's employment with Defendant was terminated-a decision that Plaintiff attributes to his medical condition and his complaints regarding health and safety violations. Id. ¶¶ 43-45.

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court on February 15, 2018. See Notice of Removal, Dkt. # 1 (“NOR”), Ex. A. Defendant removed the case to this Court on March 21, 2018, asserting diversity jurisdiction because it is a citizen of Virginia, Plaintiff is a citizen of California, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See Id. ¶¶ 1, 9-40. Following removal, on April 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint (“FAC”). In addition to Defendant, the FAC added another party: Defendant “Ali, ” who was allegedly “one of Plaintiff's supervisors” who “held the position of ‘Assistant General Manager.'” FAC ¶ 7. The FAC asserted that Defendant “Ali” is a citizen of California. Id. Of Plaintiff's nine causes of action, only the final four are directed at “Ali”:

Sixth Cause of Action: Whistleblower retaliation in violation of California Labor Code § 1102.5. FAC ¶¶ 87-91.
Seventh Cause of Action: Defamation in violation of California Civil Code § 46. FAC ¶¶ 92-97.
Eighth Cause of Action: Harassment based on medical condition in violation of California Government Code § 12940(j). FAC ¶¶ 98-104.
Ninth Cause of Action: Intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). Id. ¶¶ 105-08.

         Plaintiff now moves to remand the action to state court, arguing that the addition of “Ali” destroys the complete diversity of parties needed for the Court to exercise diversity jurisdiction. See generally Mot.

         II. Legal Standard

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, a defendant may remove a civil action from state court to federal district court only if the federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over the case. See Chicago v. Int'l Coll. of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 163 (1997) (“The propriety of removal thus depends on whether the case originally could have been filed in federal court.”). The case shall be remanded to state court if at any time before final judgment it appears a removing court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); Int'l Primate Prot. League v. Adm'rs of Tulane Educ. Fund, 500 U.S. 72, 87 (1991). Courts strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction. See Provincial Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome, Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1087 (9th Cir. 2009); Luther v. Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP, 533 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2008). “A defendant seeking removal has the burden to establish that removal is proper and any doubt is resolved against removability.” Luther, 533 F.3d at 1034; see also Moore- Thomas v. Alaska Airlines, Inc., 553 F.3d 1241, 1244 (9th Cir. 2009) (“[A]ny doubt about the right of removal requires resolution in favor of remand.”).

         III. Discussion

         For a federal court to exercise diversity jurisdiction, there must be complete diversity between the parties and the $75, 000 amount in controversy requirement must be met. See Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 267, 267 (1806); 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Complete diversity requires that “each defendant is a citizen of a different State from each plaintiff.” Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978). Consequently, if a non-diverse party is ...

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