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Moffett v. Recording Radio Film Connection, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 18, 2019

Teausha Moffett
Recording Radio Film Connection, Inc., et al.



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

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Teausha Moffett's (“Plaintiff”) motion to remand. See Dkt. # 10 (“Mot.”). Defendants Recording Radio Film Connection, Inc. (“Radio Connection”) and James Petulla (collectively “Defendants”) oppose this motion, see Dkt. # 12 (“Opp.”), and Plaintiff replied, see Dkt. # 13 (“Reply”). With the Court's leave, Defendants filed a sur-reply responding to arguments made for the first time in the reply brief. See Dkt. # 16 (“Sur-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 DENIES the motion.

         I. Background

         Defendants operate an “online college” that purports to provide training for individuals seeking work in the “recording, film, broadcasting and culinary industries.” See Complaint, Dkt. # 1-1 (“Compl.”), ¶ 1. Plaintiff enrolled in Defendants' programs in 2012 and 2017. See id. ¶ 15. She now alleges that Defendants falsely represented the nature of the programs and the benefits that could follow from completing them. For example, Plaintiff contends that Defendants falsely advertised that enrollees would receive “‘one-on-one' private training sessions with successful industry mentors” when no one-on-one sessions were actually provided. See Id. ¶¶ 4-5. She further alleges that Defendants overstated their purported 72 percent job placement rate. See Id. ¶ 9.

         On March 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed this case in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of a putative class of “all persons who enrolled in the Programs from Radio Connection in California four years prior to the filing of this complaint through the present.” See Id. ¶ 47. The complaint asserts ten causes of action, including contract and fraud-related claims and claims for violations of the consumer protection statutes of all fifty states and the District of Columbia. See generally id.

         On April 25, 2019, Defendants timely removed the case to this Court, asserting federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) and, alternatively, on the basis of traditional diversity jurisdiction over Plaintiff's individual claim. See Notice of Removal, Dkt. # 1 (“NOR”), ¶¶ 5-43. Plaintiff now moves to remand, arguing both that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the case and that a forum selection clause in the parties' contract requires the case to be heard in state court. 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 City of Chi. 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).

         III. Discussion

         The Court first addresses whether it has subject matter jurisdiction before turning to Plaintiff's argument about the forum selection clause.

         A. CAFA Jurisdiction[1]

         CAFA provides federal jurisdiction over class actions in which (1) the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million, (2) there is minimal diversity between the parties, and (3) the number of proposed class members is at least 100. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2), (d)(5)(B). “Congress designed the terms of CAFA specifically to permit a defendant to remove certain class or mass actions into federal court . . . [and] intended CAFA to be interpreted expansively.” Ibarra v. Manheim Invs., Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015). While “no antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking CAFA, ” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014), “the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction remains, as before, on the proponent of federal jurisdiction.” Abrego Abrego v. Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006).

         Under CAFA, a defendant removing a case must file a notice of removal containing a “short and plain statement of the grounds for removal.” Dart Cherokee, 135 S.Ct. at 553. In Dart Cherokee, the Supreme Cout clarified that “a defendant's notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold, ” unless the defendant's assertion is contested by the plaintiff. Id. at 554. Where, as here, a defendant's asserted amount in controversy is contested, “[e]vidence establishing the amount is required.” Id. “In such a case, both sides submit proof and the court decides, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has ...

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