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Jones v. KLLM Transport Services, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 10, 2019

Kayla Jones
v.
KLLM Transport Services, LLC, et al.

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

          CIVIL MINUTES-GENERAL

         Proceedings: Order (1) GRANTING Plaintiff Kayla Jones's Motion to Remand (Dkt. No. 14); (2) AWARDING Plaintiff $1, 800 in Attorneys' Fees; and (3) VACATING the October 21, 2019 Hearing (IN CHAMBERS)

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Kayla Jones's Motion to Remand. (“Motion, ” Dkt. No. 14.) 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 GRANTS the Motion and AWARDS Plaintiff $1, 800 in attorneys' fees. The hearing scheduled for October 21, 2019 is VACATED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 30, 2019, Plaintiff Kayla Jones (“Plaintiff”) filed her complaint against Defendants KLLM Transport Services, LLC (“KLLM”), Gregory Bell (“Bell”) (collectively, “Defendants”), and Does 1-50 and in the Superior Court for the County of San Bernardino. (“Complaint, ” Dkt. No. 1-1.) The Complaint alleges personal injury claims arising out of a vehicle collision. (Id.) Plaintiff served KLLM on July 19, 2019. (Dkt. No. 14 at 13.) Plaintiff has not yet served Gregory Bell. (Id. at 10.)

         Defendants removed the action to this Court on August 23, 2019. (“Notice of Removal, ” Dkt. No. 1.) Defendants assert diversity jurisdiction. (Id.) Plaintiff filed the Motion on September 17, 2019. (Motion.) In support of the Motion, Plaintiff filed the Declaration of Anna You with Exhibits A-C. (“You Declaration, ” Dkt. No. 14 at 9-26.) Defendants opposed the Motion on September 26, 2019. (“Opposition, ” Dkt. No. 16.) In support of the Opposition, Defendants filed the Declaration of Matthew J. Kracht with Exhibits A-C. (“Kracht Declaration, ” Dkt. No. 16-1.) Plaintiff filed her reply on October 4, 2019 with a second Declaration of Anna You. (“Reply, ” Dkt. No. 17; “You Reply Declaration, ” Dkt. No. 17-1.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant may remove a matter to federal court where the district court would have original jurisdiction. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Federal courts have limited jurisdiction, “possessing only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013). As such, a Defendant may remove civil actions in which a federal question exists or in which complete diversity of citizenship between the parties exists and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. “Complete diversity” means that “each defendant must be a citizen of a different state from each plaintiff.” In re Digimarc Corp. Derivative Litigation, 549 F.3d 1223, 1234 (9th Cir. 2008).

         The right to remove is not absolute, even where original jurisdiction exists. A defendant may not remove on diversity jurisdiction grounds “if any of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the State in which such an action is brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2). And a defendant must remove “within 30 days after the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b).

         Moreover, the 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.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff seeks remand, arguing the Notice of Removal is deficient. First, she argues the Notice of Removal is untimely because it was filed more than thirty days after Plaintiff served KLLM. (Motion at 3-4.) Second, she argues that the Notice of Removal fails to allege diversity of citizenship because it makes “no allegation regarding Plaintiff's citizenship” and alleges “only that Bell is ‘a resident of Texas.'” (Motion at 5; Notice of Removal at 2.) And third, she argues that the Notice of Removal fails to establish the requisite $75, 000 in controversy, stating only that the amount “exceeds $25, 000.” (Motion at 4; Notice of Removal at 2.)

         The Court agrees-the Notice of Removal is wholly deficient. It is Defendants' burden to file a notice with “a plausible allegation” that diversity of citizenship exists and “that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold.” See Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). And a notice that neither alleges the plaintiff's citizenship nor makes even a conclusory statement that there is more than $75, 000 in controversy fails to make a plausible allegation that the Court has original jurisdiction. Although Defendants attempt to establish in the Opposition that the amount in controversy is over $75, 000, they make no allegations regarding Plaintiff's citizenship. (See Opposition at 3-5.) It is Defendant's burden to establish diversity of citizenship, and without information regarding Plaintiff's citizenship, it is impossible for Court to conclude that diversity of citizenship exists.[1]That alone is reason to remand.

         Moreover, removal of this action is improper pursuant to the Forum Defendant Rule, which limits removal based on diversity where one of the defendants “properly joint and served” is a citizen of the state in which the action was originally filed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b)(2). Because “[r]emoval based on diversity jurisdiction is intended to protect out-of-state defendants from possible prejudices in state court” there is no need for it “in cases where the ...


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