United States District Court, C.D. California
Present: Honorable JESUS G. BERNAL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT
Order (1) REMANDING the Action to the Riverside Superior
Court; (2) DENYING AS MOOT Defendants’ Motion to
Dismiss (Dkt. No. 8); and (3) VACATING the October 7, 2019
Hearing (IN CHAMBERS)
23, 2019, Plaintiff Magdai Vences Arellano
(“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint in the Riverside
Superior Court against PHH Mortgage Corporation
(“PHH”); U.S. Bank National Association, as
trustee for Structured Asset Securities Corporation Mortgage
Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2006-GEL4 (“US
Bank”) (collectively, “Defendants”); and
Does 1 through 10. (“Complaint, ” Dkt. No 1-1.)
The Complaint contains six claims under California
and one federal claim for violation of section 1641(g) of the
Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) (15 U.S.C. §
1641(g)). (Id.) On August 8, 2019, Defendants
removed the action to this Court, arguing that the Court has
subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331 and 1332. (“Notice of Removal,
” Dkt. No. 1.) On August 15, 2019, Defendants filed a
motion to dismiss. (“MTD, ” Dkt. No. 8.) On
August 26, 2019, Plaintiff filed a notice of voluntary
dismissal of her only federal claim for relief. (Dkt. No.
12.) As such, no claim remains over which the Court has
original subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
September 9, 2019, the Court issued an order to show cause
why the case should not be remanded for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. (“OSC, ” Dkt. No. 18.) On
September 13, 2019, Defendants filed a response (“D.
Resp., ” Dkt. No. 20), along with a request for
judicial notice (“RJN, ” Dkt. No.
Plaintiff filed a response on September 19, 2019. (“P.
Resp., ” Dkt. No. 22.)
courts have limited jurisdiction, “possessing only that
power authorized by Constitution and statute.” Gunn
v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013). As such, federal
courts only have original jurisdiction over civil actions in
which a federal question exists or in which complete
diversity of citizenship between the parties exists and the
amount in controversy (“AIC”) exceeds $75, 000.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. Federal
courts are under an “an independent obligation to
examine their own jurisdiction, ” FW/PBS, Inc. v.
City of Dallas, 493 U.S. 215, 231 (1990), and may raise
the issue of subject matter jurisdiction at any time, sua
sponte, Mobilitie Mgmt., LLC v. Harkness, 2016 WL
10879714, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 31, 2016).
Ninth Circuit “strictly construe[s] the removal statute
against removal jurisdiction, ” and “[f]ederal
jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the
right of removal in the first instance.” Gaus v.
Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).
“The strong presumption against removal jurisdiction
means that the defendant always has the burden of
establishing that removal is proper.” Jackson v.
Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC, 2014 WL 5514142, *6
(C.D. Cal. Oct. 31, 2014). The court must resolve doubts
regarding removability in favor of remanding the case to
state court. Id.
district court should first consider whether it is
“facially apparent” from the complaint that the
jurisdictional amount has been satisfied. See Simmons v.
PCR Tech., 209 F.Supp.2d 1029, 1031 (N.D. Cal. 2002)
(quoting Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.,
116 F.3d 373, 377 (9th Cir. 1997)). If the complaint does not
specify the amount of damages, “the court may examine
facts in the complaint and evidence submitted by the
parties.” Id. The defendant bears the burden
of establishing the amount in controversy at removal.
Rodriguez v. AT & T Mobility Servs. LLC, 728 F.3d
975, 981 (9th Cir. 2013). Therefore, the defendant must offer
evidence establishing that it is more likely than not that
the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of
costs and interest. Guglielmino v. McKee Foods
Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 2007).
Notice of Removal, Defendants allege Plaintiff is a citizen
of California, PHH is a citizen of New Jersey, and U.S. Bank
is a citizen of Ohio. (Notice of Removal ¶¶
9–11.) They contend the AIC exceeds $75, 000 because
Plaintiff seeks punitive damages, treble damages, civil
penalties, restitution, disgorgement of profits,
attorneys’ fees, and an injunction “in addition
to” approximately $75, 000 in damages. (Id.
¶ 12.) However, the Complaint states that the
“[a]mount in controversy [is] less than $75, 000”
and “approximately $75, 000.00.” (Compl. at 1;
id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff seeks “compensatory,
special and general damages in an amount subject to proof at
trial; . . . civil penalties . . . for the greater of treble
damages or $50, 000[;] . . . civil penalties of $2, 000[;] .
. . an injunction enjoining Defendants from conducting
further foreclosure activity[;] . . . restitution and
disgorgement of profits[;]” and attorneys’ fees.
(Id., Prayer for Relief.) The most natural reading
of the Complaint is that the “approximately $75,
000” AIC is inclusive of – not additional to
– the various types of damages and remedies requested
in the prayer for relief.
their Response to the OSC, Defendants argue Plaintiff seeks
to permanently enjoin foreclosure, and thus that the AIC is
the value of the property or the amount of indebtedness of
the property. (D. Resp. at 2–3 (citing Corral v.
Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc., 878 F.3d 770, 776 (9th
Cir. 2017) (“When a plaintiff seeks to quiet title to a
property or permanently enjoin foreclosure, the object of the
litigation is the ownership of the property. Therefore, the
value of the property or the amount of indebtedness on the
property is a proper measure of the amount in
controversy.”); Compl., Prayer for Relief ¶ 4
(“Plaintiff prays . . . For an injunction enjoining
Defendants from conducting further foreclosure activity . . .
pursuant to [Cal.] Civ. Code § 2924.12[.]”)).)
responds that she is not seeking a permanent injunction, but
“a temporary injunction pending the review of a loan
modification application she submitted . . ., which is the
customary remedy provided by the governing HBOR
statutes.” (P. Resp. at 3.) Civil Code §
2924.12(a), under which Plaintiff seeks an injunction, allows
a borrower to bring an action to enjoin a violation of
certain provisions of the HBOR. Cal. Civ. Code §
2924.12(a)(1). Such an injunction “shall remain in
place . . . until the court determines that the mortgage
servicer, mortgagee, trustee, beneficiary, or authorized
agent has corrected and remedied the violation or violations
giving rise to the action for injunctive relief.”
Id. § 2924.12(a)(2). Where the object of
litigation is a temporary injunction, the value of the loan
amount is not the amount in controversy because the plaintiff
must still pay her debt to retain the subject property.
Corral, 878 F.3d at 776.
courts that have examined this issue have come to the same
conclusion. As another court in this district explained,
“[c]ourts have roundly rejected the argument that the
amount in controversy is the entire amount of the loan where
a plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to enjoin a foreclosure
sale pending a loan modification.” Vergara
v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2015 WL 1240421, at *2 (C.D.
Cal. Mar. 17, 2015) (emphasis in original). This is because,
as is the case here, “the primary relief sought by
plaintiff is a temporary delay of the foreclosure
proceedings, and the amount of the loan at issue would
therefore not be a relevant measure of damages.”
Cheng v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2010 WL 4923045, at
*2 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 2, 2010); see alsoJauregui
v. Nationstar Mortgage LLC, 2015 WL 2154148, at *4 (C.D.
Cal. May 7, 2015) (remanding action where plaintiff sought
only injunction of foreclosure activity “until a
written determination on [his] loan modification application
is conveyed to [him] in accordance with [HBOR]” and did
not seek to challenge defendant’s right to collect on
the outstanding loan amount); Vonderscher v. Green Tree
Servicing, LLC, 2013 WL 1858431, at *4 (E.D. Cal. May 2,
2013) (“Numerous other courts have found that when a
plaintiff does not seek to rescind the loan at issue, but