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Rodriguez v. Circle K Stores Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 11, 2019

TIFFANY RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CIRCLE K STORES INC., Defendant.

          ORDER RE: MOTION TO REMAND

          FERNANDO M. OLGUIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Having reviewed and considered all the briefing filed with respect to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand Action to State Court (Dkt. 14, “Motion”), the court concludes that oral argument is not necessary to resolve the Motion. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; Local Rule 7-15; Willis v. Pac. Mar. Ass'n, 244 F.3d 675, 684 n. 2 (9th Cir. 2001).

         BACKGROUND

         On February 11, 2019, plaintiff Tiffany Rodriguez (“plaintiff”) filed a complaint in the Riverside County Superior Court against defendant Circle K Stores Inc. (“defendant”). (See Dkt. 1-2, Complaint at ECF 32). Plaintiff brought suit on behalf of herself and “all individuals who are or previously were employed by defendant in California and classified as non-exempt employees” for a period spanning four years prior to the complaint's filing date. (See id . at ¶ 20) (capitalization omitted). Plaintiff asserts six causes of action for: (1) unlawful business practices, in violation of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200, et seq.; (2) failure to pay overtime compensation, in violation of Cal. Lab. Code §§ 204, 510, 1194 & 1198; (3) failure to provide meal period premium pay, in violation of Cal. Lab. Code §§ 226.7 & 512; (4) failure to provide rest breaks, in violation of Cal. Lab. Code §§ 226.7 & 512; (5) failure to provide accurate itemized wage statements, in violation of Cal. Lab. Code § 226; and (6) failure to pay wages when due, in violation of Cal. Lab. Code §§ 201-03. (See id. at ¶¶ 41-91).

         On March 14, 2019, defendant removed the action to this court, invoking the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, et seq. (See Dkt. 1, Notice of Removal (“NOR”) at 1).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Removal of a civil action from the state court where it was filed is proper if the action might have originally been brought in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (“Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any 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[.]”). “CAFA provides expanded original diversity jurisdiction for class actions meeting the amount in controversy and minimal diversity and numerosity requirements set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2).” United Steel, Paper & Forestry, Rubber, Mfg., Energy, Allied Indus. & Serv. Workers Int'l Union, AFL-CIO, CLC v. Shell Oil Co., 602 F.3d 1087, 1090-91 (9th Cir. 2010); see Ibarra v. Manheim Invs., Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1195 (9th Cir. 2015) (“A CAFA-covered class action may be removed to federal court, subject to more liberalized jurisdictional requirements[.]”). Under CAFA, “district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action in which the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5, 000, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is a class action in which . . . any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2).

         “[N]o antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking CAFA, which Congress enacted to facilitate adjudication of certain class actions in federal court.” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). However, “under CAFA the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction remains, as before, on the proponent of federal jurisdiction.” Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chemical Co., 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (noting that Congress passed CAFA in the context of a “longstanding, near-canonical rule that the burden on removal rests with the removing defendant”). “A defendant seeking removal of a putative class action must demonstrate, by a preponderance of evidence, that the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum.” Rodriguez v. AT&T Mobility Servs. LLC, 728 F.3d 975, 981 (9th Cir. 2013). “When plaintiffs favor state court and have prepared a complaint that does not assert the amount in controversy, or that affirmatively states that the amount in controversy does not exceed $5 million, if a defendant wants to pursue a federal forum under CAFA, that defendant in a jurisdictional dispute has the burden to put forward evidence showing that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million, to satisfy other requirements of CAFA, and to persuade the court that the estimate of damages in controversy is a reasonable one. ” Iba r ra, 775 F.3d at 1197. “The parties may submit evidence outside the complaint, including affidavits or declarations, or other summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “CAFA's requirements are to be tested by consideration of real evidence and the reality of what is at stake in the litigation, using reasonable assumptions underlying the defendant's theory of damages exposure.” Id. at 1198.

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1) requires a defendant to file a notice of removal “within 30 days after the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which such action or proceeding is based.” However, “if the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable, a notice of removal may be filed within 30 days after receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3). The removal of class actions is also governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1446. See 28 U.S.C. § 1453(b) (“A class action may be removed to a district court of the United States in accordance with section 1446.”). “A case becomes ‘removable' for purposes of section 1446 when the CAFA ground for removal is disclosed.” Jordan v. Nationstar Mortg. LLC, , 781 F.3d 1178, 1184 (9th Cir. 2015).

         DISCUSSION

         I. AMOUNT IN CONTROVERSY.

         Plaintiff argues that defendant has failed to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that more than $5 million is at stake in this litigation. (See Dkt. 14-1, Plaintiff's Memorandum[] (“Pl Mem.”) at 2). For the reasons set forth below, the court agrees.

         A. Timely Payment of Wages.

         In attempting to meet its burden of showing that more than $5 million is at issue, defendant first focuses on plaintiff's claim that defendant failed to make a timely payment of wages owed to terminated employees. (See Dkt. 1, NOR at ¶¶ 29-38). Under California Labor Code § 203(a), “[i]f an employer willfully fails to pay, without abatement or reduction, in accordance with Sections 201, 201.3, 201.5, 201.9, 202, and 205.5, any wages of an employee who is discharged or who quits, the wages of the employee shall continue as a penalty from the due date thereof at the same rate until paid or until an action therefor is commenced; but the wages shall not continue for more than 30 days.” In other words, “an employer that willfully fails to pay wages due an employee who is discharged or quits is ...


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