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Lopez v. FCA U.S. LLC

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 25, 2019

JUAN LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
FCA U.S. LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND (DOC. NO. 10)

         On September 21, 2018, plaintiff Juan Lopez filed this action against defendant FCA U.S. LLC (“FCA”) in the Fresno County Superior Court, alleging state law causes of action for breaches of express and implied warranties under the Song-Beverly Consumer Protection Act, California Civil Code § 1790 et seq. (the “Song-Beverly Act”). (See Doc. No. 1 at 13-19.) Defendant removed the action to this court on October 26, 2018, on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (Id. at 1-8.)

         On November 13, 2018, plaintiff filed the instant motion to remand the case to state court, arguing that defendant had failed to establish both complete diversity of citizenship between the parties or that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Doc. No. 10.) Defendant filed its opposition on December 20, 2018. (Doc. No. 13.) Plaintiff filed his reply on January 2, 2019. (Doc. No. 14.) A hearing on this matter was held on January 8, 2019. Attorney Alicia Hinton appeared on behalf of plaintiff, and attorney Rachel Kashani appeared on behalf of defendant.

         Having considered the parties' written submissions and heard oral argument, and for the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion to remand will be denied.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A defendant in state court may remove a civil action to federal court so long as that case could originally have been filed in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); City of Chicago v. Int'l Coll. of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 163 (1997). Thus, removal of a state action may be based on either diversity jurisdiction or federal question jurisdiction. City of Chicago, 522 U.S. at 163; Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Removal jurisdiction is based entirely on federal statutory authority. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441 et seq. These removal statutes are strictly construed, and removal jurisdiction is to be rejected in favor of remand to the state court if there are doubts as to the right of removal. Nevada v. Bank of Am. Corp., 672 F.3d 661, 667 (9th Cir. 2012); Geographic Expeditions, Inc. v. Estate of Lhotka, 599 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir. 2010); Provincial Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome, Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1087 (9th Cir. 2009); Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). The defendant seeking removal of an action from state court bears the burden of establishing grounds for federal jurisdiction, by a preponderance of the evidence. Geographic Expeditions, 599 F.3d at 1106-07; Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009); Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566-67. The district court must remand the case “[i]f at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); see also Smith v. Mylan, Inc., 761 F.3d 1042, 1044 (9th Cir. 2014); Bruns v. NCUA, 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (holding that remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction “is mandatory, not discretionary”).[1]

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff contends that defendant failed to establish the necessary facts to establish the diversity jurisdiction of this federal court. Diversity jurisdiction exists in actions between citizens of different states where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         A. Citizenship of Defendant

         Section 1332 first requires complete diversity of citizenship, and the presence “of a single plaintiff from the same State as a single defendant deprives the district court of original diversity jurisdiction over the entire action.” Abrego v. Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). For purposes of diversity jurisdiction, a natural person is a citizen of the state in which she is domiciled, and she is presumptively domiciled at her place of residence. See Kantor v. Wellesley Galleries, Ltd., 704 F.2d 1088, 1090 (9th Cir. 1983); accord Naegele v. Tonius, 320 Fed.Appx. 550, 551 (9th Cir. 2009).[2] A corporation, including one incorporated in a foreign country, is a citizen of its place of incorporation and its principal place of business. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1); Nike, Inc. v. Comercial Iberica de Exclusivas Deportivas, S.A., 20 F.3d 987, 990 (9th Cir. 1994). A limited liability company is a citizen of all the states of which its owners or members are citizens. Johnson v. Columbia Props. Anchorage, LP, 437 F.3d 894, 899 (9th Cir. 2006).

         As to plaintiff's citizenship, plaintiff's complaint alleges that he resides in California. (See Doc. No. 1 at 13.) On defendant's motion to remand, neither party disputes that plaintiff is a citizen of California. Absent any countervailing evidence or argument, the court finds plaintiff is a citizen of California.

         In its notice of removal and accompanying declaration, defendant states that: (1) FCA is a limited liability company organized under the laws of the state of Delaware; (2) the sole member of FCA is FCA North America Holding, LLC (“FCA North America”), a limited liability company organized under the laws of the state of Delaware; and (3) the sole member of FCA North America is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, N.V., a publicly traded company (naamloze vennootschap) incorporated under the laws of the Netherlands, and with its principal place of business in London, England. (Id. at 3; Doc. No. 1-2 at 1-2.) Because both defendant and its sole member FCA North America are limited liability companies, their citizenship ultimately depends on the citizenship of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, N.V. Accordingly, based on the evidence presented, the court finds that defendant is a citizen of the Netherlands and England, for purposes of diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1); see also Johnson v. Columbia Properties Anchorage, LP, 437 F.3d 894, 899 (9th Cir. 2006) (“[A]n LLC is a citizen of every state of which its owners/members are citizens.”).

         For these reasons, the court concludes that this is an action between citizens of different states or foreign states.

         B. Amount in Controversy

         In addition to diversity of citizenship, the party asserting diversity jurisdiction also bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Sanchez v. Monumental Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 1996). The amount in controversy, which must be determined as of the date of removal, see Conrad Assoc. v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 994 F.Supp. 1196, 1200 (N.D. Cal. 1998) (citing Miranti v. Lee, 3 F.3d 925, 928 (5th Cir. 1993) and United Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Human Relations Comm'n, 24 F.3d 1008, 1014 (7th Cir. 1994)), “is simply an estimate of the total amount in dispute, not a prospective assessment of [the] defendant's liability, ” Lewis v. Verizon Comm. Inc., 627 F.3d 395, 400 (9th Cir. 2010). “In calculating the amount in controversy, a court must assume that the allegations in the complaint are true and that a jury will return a verdict for plaintiffs on all claims alleged.” Page v. Luxottica ...


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