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Gunaratna v. Country Life, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 10, 2019

Mocha Gunaratna
Country Life, LLC, et al.

          Attorneys Present for Plaintiffs: Celine Cohan Matthew T. Theriault.

          Attorneys Present for Defendants: Melanie A. Ayerh, Anthony J. Anscombe.

          Present: The Honorable GEORGE H. WU, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.



         Court hears oral argument. The Tentative circulated and attached hereto, is adopted as the Court's Final Ruling. The Court would GRANT the Motion to Remand and DENY the request for attorneys' fees.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Mocha Gunaratna sues Defendants Country Life, LLC (“Country Life”) and Does 1-10, inclusive, on behalf of a putative class for: (1) violation of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Civil Code § 1750; (2) violation of the California False Advertising Law, Business & Professions Code § 17500; and (3) violation of the California Unfair Competition Law, Business & Professions Code § 17200. See generally Complaint, Docket No. 1-1. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, attorneys' fees, and costs of the suit. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges the following: Country Life Activated Charcoal (the “Product”) is a dietary supplement. Id. ¶ 1. Defendants advertise the Product as a “digestive aid” that “promotes absorption of intestinal gas.” Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiff purchased the Product in reliance on these claims. Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiff used the Product as directed but did not receive the advertised benefits, and she would not have purchased the Product if she had known it would not deliver the advertised benefits. Id. Studies have shown that activated charcoal does not absorb or reduce intestinal gases. Id. ¶ 15.

         Plaintiff brought suit in Los Angeles Superior Court; and Defendants removed to this Court on the basis of the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d) (“CAFA”). See Notice of Removal, Docket No. 1. Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand, seeking both remand and attorneys' fees. See Motion to Remand (“MTR”), Docket No. 15. Defendants oppose. See Opposition to Motion to Remand (“Opp'n”), Docket No. 18. Plaintiff replies. See Reply in Support of Motion to Remand (“Reply”), Docket No. 20.

         II. Legal Standard

         When a plaintiff seeks to have a case remanded to the state court from which it was removed, the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is on the party seeking removal. See Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Abrego v. The Dow Chemical Co., 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006) (same burden for cases under CAFA. CAFA provides that district courts have original jurisdiction over any class action in which: (1) the amount in controversy exceeds five million dollars, (2) any plaintiff class member is a citizen of a state different from any defendant, (3) the primary defendants are not states, state officials, or other government entities against whom the district court may be foreclosed from ordering relief, and (4) the number of plaintiffs in the class is at least 100. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d)(2), (d)(5). The amount-in-controversy requirement excludes only “interest and costs, ” so attorneys' fees can be included in the calculation. Guglielmino v. McKee Foods Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 700 (9th Cir. 2007).

         When the complaint alleges damages less than the jurisdictional amount, the defendant must demonstrate to a “legal certainty” that the amount in controversy requirement is satisfied. Lowdermilk v. United States Bank Nat'l Assoc., 479 F.3d 994, 999 (9th Cir. 2007). A court measuring the amount in controversy must assume that the allegations of the complaint are true and that a jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff on all claims made in the complaint. See Kenneth Rothschild Trust v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 199 F.Supp.2d 993, 1001 (C.D. Cal. 2002). “The ultimate inquiry is what amount is put ‘in controversy' by the plaintiff's complaint, not what a defendant will actually owe.” Korn v. Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., 536 F.Supp.2d 1199, 1205 (E.D. Cal. 2008); Rippee v. Boston Market Corp., 408 F.Supp.2d 982, 986 (S.D. Cal. 2005). “Conclusory allegations as to the amount in controversy are insufficient.” Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090-91 (9th Cir. 2003). Rather, “a court may consider the contents of the removal petition and ‘summary-judgment-type evidence' relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of the removal.” Valdez, 372 F.3d at 1117. A court may also consider supplemental evidence later proffered by the removing defendant, which was not originally included in the removal notice. See Cohn v. Petsmart, Inc., 281 F.3d 837, 840 n. 1 (9th Cir. 2002). “Under this system, a defendant cannot establish removal jurisdiction by mere speculation and conjecture, with unreasonable assumptions.” See Ibarra v. Manheim Invs., Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015).

         While normally there is a “strong presumption” against removal jurisdiction, see, e.g., Gaus v. Miles. Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992), and doubts as to removability are resolved in favor of remanding the case to state court, see Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090, “no antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking CAFA, which Congress enacted to facilitate adjudication of certain class actions in federal court, ” see Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 574 U.S. 81, 89 (2014).

         III. ...

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