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Gearing v. Garfield Beach CVS, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 3, 2019

RUTH GEARING
v.
GARFIELD BEACH CVS. LLC

          Present: The Honorable ANDREW J. GUILFORD

          CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

         Proceedings: [IN CHAMBERS] ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND (DKT. NO. 15.)

         Defendant Garfield Beach CVS, LLC (“CVS”) removed this personal injury dispute to federal court, asserting diversity jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal, Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff Ruth Gearing now moves to remand the case to Orange County Superior Court and to recover attorney's fees. (Motion, Dkt. No. 15.)

         This matter is appropriate for resolution without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 78(b). The hearing and scheduling conference on July 8, 2019 and all other pending matters are VACATED. Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         1. BRIEF BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in California state court on March 22, 2019, alleging negligence and premises liability. (Compl., Dkt. No. 4-1.) Plaintiff states that CVS “negligently maintained the automatic doors to the store” and that as a result, the door hit another customer, “causing him to fall back into Plaintiff.” (Id., 4.) Plaintiff claims that she then “fell violently onto the ground, striking her right knee and right side, cracking one of her ribs.” (Id., 5.)

         CVS filed a notice of removal on April 29, 2019, asserting diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Gearing resides in California, and CVS is an LLC with a sole member residing in Rhode Island (Removal, 3-4.) The parties don't dispute that Gearing and CVS are diverse. (Mot., 2.) Rather, they dispute whether the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. (Id.)

         2. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Constitution provides in Article III, § 2 that “[t]he judicial power [of the United States] shall extend . . . to all Cases . . . between Citizens of different States.” \Congress has authorized district courts to exercise jurisdiction over “all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interests and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

         Principles of federalism and judicial economy require courts to “scrupulously confine their [removal] jurisdiction to the precise limits which [Congress] has defined.” See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 109 (1941). “Nothing is to be more jealously guarded by a court than its jurisdiction.” United States v. Ceja-Prado, 333 F.3d 1046, 1051 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).“To protect the jurisdiction of state courts, removal jurisdiction should be strictly construed in favor of remand.” Padilla v. AT&T Corp., 697 F.Supp.2d 1156, 1158 (C.D. Cal. 2009); see also Harris v. Bankers Life and Cas. Co., 425 F.3d 689, 698 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941)). “Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Padilla, 697 F.Supp.2d at 1158 (quoting Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992)).

         A defendant seeking to remove a case to a federal court need only file a notice of removal “containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a). Ordinarily, “the defendant's amount-in-controversy allegation should be accepted when not contested by the plaintiff or questioned by the court.” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 553 (2014). But if the plaintiff does contest that allegation, then the Court must find “by the preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds” the jurisdictional threshold. See 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B) (emphasis added). In such cases, “both sides submit proof and the [district] court decides, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has been satisfied.” Dart Cherokee, 135 S.Ct. at 554 (emphasis added). See also Patel v. Nike Retail Services, Inc., 58 F.Supp. 3D 1032, 1038 (N.D. Cal. 2014).

         3. AMOUNT IN CONTROVERSY

         The Complaint states only that this is an unlimited civil action exceeding $25, 000, and it doesn't otherwise specify the amount in controversy. See Compl. (Dkt. 17-1) at 1. Plaintiff seeks hospital and medical expenses and other compensatory damages according to proof. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         First, the Court isn't persuaded by either party's arguments regarding Plaintiff's settlement offer of $75, 001. See Mot. at 5-6; Opp'n at 3-4. This offer neither proves nor disproves the actual amount in controversy, but rather appears to be the product of cost-conscious litigation strategy. While federal courts in some cases remand actions based on a plaintiff's stipulation to seek no more than $75, 000, ...


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