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Baker v. Propak Logistics, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

September 3, 2019

Travis Baker
v.
Propak Logistics, Inc., et al.

          Present: The Honorable JESUS G. BERNAL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

          CIVIL MINUTES-GENERAL

         Proceedings: Order (1) DENYING Plaintiff Travin Baker's Motion to Remand (Dkt. No. 12); and (3) VACATING the September 9, 2019 Hearing (IN CHAMBERS)

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Travin Baker's Motion to Remand. (“Motion, ” Dkt. No. 12.) The Court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without a hearing. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L.R. 7-15. After consideration of the papers filed in support of, and in opposition to the Motion, the Court DENIES the Motion. The hearing scheduled for September 9, 2019 is VACATED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 30, 2019, Plaintiff Travin Baker (“Plaintiff”) filed this putative class action complaint against Defendants Propak Logistics, Inc. (“Defendant”) and Does 1 through 100 (collectively, “Defendants”) in the Superior Court for the County of San Bernardino. (“Complaint, ” Dkt. No. 1-4.) Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of himself and “[a]ll current and former hourly-paid employees who worked for any of the Defendants within the State of California at any time during the period from four years preceding the filing of this Complaint to final judgment.” (Complaint ¶ 13.) The Complaint advances multiple claims under California law: (1) unpaid overtime; (2) unpaid meal period premiums; (3) unpaid rest period premiums; (4) unpaid minimum wages; (5) final wages not timely paid; (6) wages not timely paid during employment; (7) non-compliant wage statements; (8) failure to keep requisite payroll records; (9) unreimbursed business expenses; and (10) violation of the California Business and Professions Code, §§ 17200, et seq. (Complaint ¶¶ 47-117.)

         Plaintiff asserts Defendant employed him as an hourly-paid, non-exempt employee from approximately December 2017 through May 2018. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) Plaintiff alleges that during the time of his employment, Defendant failed to compensate him and other similarly situated employees for all hours worked, missed meal periods, and/or rest breaks. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff claims Defendant is engaged in a pattern and practice of wage abuse against its hourly-paid or non-exempt employees in California. (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff further alleges he and other putative class members were not provided complete and accurate wage statements, were not paid minimum wages for all hours worked, and were not paid all wages owed upon discharge or resignation from Defendant. (Id. ¶¶ 30-37.)

         Defendant removed the action to this Court on July 3, 2019. (“Notice of Removal, ” Dkt. No. 1.) Defendant asserts jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”). Plaintiff then filed the Motion on August 2, 2019. (Dkt. No. 12.) Defendant opposed the Motion on August 19, 2019. (“Opposition, ” Dkt. No. 13.)[1] Plaintiff filed its reply memorandum on August 26, 2019. (“Reply, ” Dkt. No. 18.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only that power authorized by the Constitution and statute.” Gunn v. Minton, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013). CAFA vests federal courts with original jurisdiction over class actions involving at least 100 class members, minimal diversity, and an amount in controversy that exceeds $5, 000, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d).

         Generally, courts must “strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). “However, ‘no anti-removal presumption attends cases invoking CAFA . . . .'” Garcia v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2016 WL 6068104, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 14, 2016) (quoting Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 553 (2014)). Instead, Congress intended CAFA to be interpreted expansively. Ibarra v. Manheim Investments, Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015).

         A defendant seeking removal of an action to federal district court need only offer a “short and plain statement of the grounds for removal” in its notice of removal. 28 U.S.C § 1446(a). To meet CAFA's diversity requirement, a removing defendant must show “any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(A). “Thus, under CAFA complete diversity is not required; ‘minimal diversity' suffices.” Serrano v. 180 Connect, Inc., 478 F.3d 1018, 1021 (9th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted).

         To satisfy CAFA's amount-in-controversy requirement, “a removing defendant must plausibly assert that the amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000.” Garcia 2016 WL 6068104, at *3 (citing Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1197). A removing “defendant's amount-in-controversy allegation should be accepted when not contested by the plaintiff or questioned by the court.” Dart Cherokee, 135 S.Ct. at 553. Where a plaintiff questions the amount in controversy asserted, further evidence establishing that the amount alleged meets the jurisdictional minimum is required. Id. at 554. “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 been satisfied.” Id. at 554.

         “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.'” Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1197 (quoting Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d 373, 377 (9th Cir. 1997)). “Under this system, 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.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff seeks remand: he asserts that Defendant's amount in controversy estimate of $10, 699, 528.75[2] is inaccurate and unreliable. (See Notice of Removal at 13; Motion at 2, 4.) Plaintiff argues that (1) Defendant provides no evidence to support the figures it uses in the calculation (e.g., number of employees affected, number of pay stubs at issue, average hourly rate of pay, etc.); (2) Defendant relies on unreasonable estimates of the rate of the violations (e.g., amount of unpaid overtime, number of missed meal breaks, etc.); and (3) Defendant improperly includes a 25% attorneys' fees award. (See generally, ...


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