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Mejico v. Online Labels, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 12, 2019

BRITTNEY MEJICO, Plaintiff,
v.
ONLINE LABELS, INC., a Florida Corporation; and DOES 1-10 inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND [9]

          OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Brittney Mejico (“Mejico”) moves to remand this action to the Superior Court of California for the County of San Bernadino. (Pl.'s Mot. to Remand (“Mot.”) 1, ECF No. 9.) For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Mejico's Motion.[1]

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On November 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant Online Labels, Inc. (“Online Labels”) in the Superior Court of California for the County of San Bernardino. (See Notice of Removal Ex. 1 (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1-1.) Through her Complaint, Mejico alleges a single claim for violation of California's Unruh Civil Rights Act (“Unruh Act”), California Civil Code section 51, et seq. (Compl. ¶¶ 28- 34.)

         Mejico is permanently blind and states that Online Labels's website includes barriers that make it difficult for individuals who are visually-impaired to navigate. (Compl. ¶ 7.) As such, Mejico claims that she was denied the full use and enjoyment of Online Labels's website in violation of the Unruh Act. (Compl. ¶ 7.) Mejico seeks statutory damages, attorneys' fees and costs, and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief requiring Online Labels to adopt and implement website accessibility policies to ensure that its website is fully and equally accessible to the visually-impaired. (Compl. ¶¶ 32-34.)

         On December 19, 2018, Online Labels filed a Notice of Removal under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446, removing this case to federal court based on federal diversity jurisdiction. (Notice of Removal 1-2.) On January 11, 2019, Mejico filed a Motion to Remand on the basis that the amount in controversy is insufficient to warrant removal on diversity grounds. (Mot. 1-2.)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, having subject-matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. See e.g., U.S. Const. Art. III, § 2, cl. 1; Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). An action filed in state court may be removed to federal district court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the suit. 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Federal courts have original jurisdiction where an action arises under federal law, id. § 1331, or where each plaintiff's citizenship is diverse from each defendant's citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, id. § 1332(a).

         Courts strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (per curiam). Therefore, “federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Id. This “strong presumption” against removal demands that a court resolve all ambiguity in favor of remand to state court. Id. (quoting Nishimoto v. Federman-Bachrach & Assocs., 903 F.2d 709, 712 n.3 (9th Cir. 1990)); see Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003) (“Where doubt regarding the right to removal exists, a case should be remanded to state court.”).

         Removal of an action is proper on the basis of an amount in controversy “if the district court finds, by the preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds [$75, 000].” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2). A defendant's notice of removal “need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold.” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). However, a defendant's bald recitation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdiction threshold, “without the defendant identifying any specific factual allegations or provisions in the complaint which might support that proposition, should provoke sua sponte remand.” Gaus, 980 F.2d at 567.

         In actions seeking non-monetary relief, “the amount in controversy is measured by the value of the object of the litigation.” Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Advert. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 347 (1977). Additionally, where cases are removed from state court to federal court, “[t]here is a strong presumption that the plaintiff has not claimed a large amount in order to confer jurisdiction on a federal court.” Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566 (quoting St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288- 90, (1983)); see also Brown v. Citibank USA, N.A., No. 2:14-CV-07695-CAS-VBK, 2014 WL 5810333, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 7, 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted) (“[I]f plaintiff chooses to ask for less than the jurisdictional amount in a state court complaint, absent a showing of bad faith only the sum actually demanded is in controversy even though the pleader's motivation is to defeat removal.”).

         When evaluating the amount in controversy, the court may consider “facts presented in the removal petition as well as any summary-judgement-type evidence.” Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090 (internal quotation marks omitted). “Conclusory allegations as to the amount in controversy are insufficient.” Id. at 1090-91. Ultimately, the partying seeking removal must overcome “the ‘strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction” by “setting forth, in the removal petition itself, the underlying facts supporting its assertion that the amount in controversy exceeds [$75, 000].” Gaus, 980 F.2d at 567.

         IV. ...


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