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Rivas v. Target Corp.

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 18, 2019

Teresa Rivas
Target Corporation, et al.






         Plaintiff Teresa Rivas claims that she suffered injuries when she slipped and fell on a puddle of water on the floor of a Target store in November 2017. On February 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in San Bernardino Superior Court against Target Corporation and 50 Doe Defendants. She asserts claims for general negligence and premises liability. Notice of Removal, Ex. A [Doc. # 1-1 (“Complaint”)]. According to Plaintiff, Defendants negligently failed to keep the premises safe and warn her of the puddle on which she slipped. [Doc. # 9 (“Motion to Remand” or “MTR”) at 3.] Plaintiff claims that, as a result of her injuries, she incurred expenses for medical treatment. Id.

         Shortly after she filed the Complaint, Target contacted Plaintiff's counsel to ask whether Plaintiff's damages exceed $75, 000. Opp'n, Ex. A at 8-9 [Doc. # 15]. Plaintiff estimated that her damages exceeded that amount. Removal Notice, Ex. D at 18. Two days later, on May 2, 2019, Plaintiff substituted Octavio Aguilar, the Target store manager at the time of the incident, as a Defendant in place of one of the Doe Defendants she originally named. MTR, Ex. A at 4 [Doc. # 9-1].

         On May 14, 2019, Defendant Target removed the action, alleging that this Court has diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 1332 because Plaintiff is a California citizen, Target is citizen of Minnesota, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Notice of Removal at ¶¶ 2-5. On May 31, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand based on the theory that Defendant Aguilar, a California citizen, destroys diversity jurisdiction. [Doc. # 9.]. The MTR is fully briefed. [Doc. ## 15 (“Opp'n”), 16 (“Reply”).]. Having considered the parties' written submissions, the Court GRANTS the MTR.



         Diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. section 1332 requires that the parties to a suit be of diverse citizenship. Diaz v. Davis (In re Digimarc Corp. Derivative Litig.), 549 F.3d 1223, 1234 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7 U.S. 267, 267 (1806)) (“Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity between the parties-each defendant must be a citizen of a different state from each plaintiff.”). There is a “strong presumption against removal jurisdiction, ” and courts must reject it “if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Geographic Expeditions, Inc. v. Estate of Lhotka ex rel. Lhotka, 599 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (per curiam)) (internal quotation marks omitted); Luther v. Countrywide Home Loans Servicing LP, 533 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2008) (any “doubt is resolved against removability”). The party “seeking removal has the burden to establish that removal is proper” and the “burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction.” Id.; Marin Gen. Hosp. v. Modesto & Empire Traction Co., 581 F.3d 941, 944 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Toumajian v. Frailey, 135 F.3d 648, 652 (9th Cir. 1998)).

         Fraudulently joined defendants do not defeat removal on diversity grounds. Ritchey v. Upjohn Drug Co., 139 F.3d 1313, 1318 (9th Cir. 1998). A non-diverse defendant is fraudulently joined, “and the defendant's presence in the lawsuit is ignored for purposes of determining diversity, ‘[i]f the plaintiff fails to state a cause of action against a resident defendant, and the failure is obvious according to the settled rules of the state.'” Morris v. Princess Cruises, Inc., 236 F.3d 1061, 1067 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting McCabe v. General Foods Corp., 811 F.2d 1336, 1339 (9th Cir. 1987)).

         When contesting removal, a plaintiff is limited to the allegations stated in its complaint. See Ritchey, 139 F.3d at 1318 (To determine whether joinder of a defendant is fraudulent, district courts must “look only to a plaintiff's pleadings to determine removability” and “will determine the ‘existence of federal jurisdiction . . . solely by an examination of the plaintiff's case.”) (citations omitted). When opposing remand, however, a defendant may introduce evidence beyond the pleadings to establish fraudulent joinder. Id. (citing McCabe, 811 F.2d at 1339). A defendant opposing remand must “show that there is no possibility that the plaintiff could prevail on any cause of action it brought against the non-diverse defendant. Remand must be granted unless the defendant shows that the plaintiff would not be afforded leave to amend his complaint to cure the purported deficiency.” Padilla v. AT&T Corp., 697 F.Supp.2d 1156, 1159 (C.D. Cal. 2009) (internal citations omitted); see also Rangel v. Bridgestone Retail Operations, LLC, 200 F.Supp.3d 1024, 1033 (C.D. Cal. 2016) (same).



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