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Mangiapane v. Ford Motor Co.

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 16, 2019

FORD MOTOR COMPANY, et al., Defendants.



         Pending before the Court is a motion to remand filed by Plaintiff Beth Mangiapane. See Dkt. No. 11. The Court finds this matter appropriate for disposition without oral argument and the matter is deemed submitted. See Civil L.R. 7-1(b). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS the motion to remand.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this action in Santa Clara County Superior Court on March 12, 2019. See Dkt. No. 1-1, Ex. A (“Compl.”). Plaintiff alleges that on January 30, 2011, she purchased a vehicle manufactured by Defendant Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) from Defendant Tuttle-Click Ford Lincoln Mercury, Inc. (“Tuttle-Click”), a Ford dealership. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9. The vehicle was covered by an express 3-year/36, 000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 5-year/60, 000-mile powertrain warranty from Ford. Id. at ¶ 9. Under the warranty, Ford undertook to maintain the utility and performance of the vehicle or to provide compensation in the event of a failure in utility or performance. Id. Accordingly, Plaintiff could deliver the vehicle to Ford's representative for repair in the event of a defect. Id.

         Plaintiff identifies several defects that developed during the warranty period that impaired the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. See Id. at ¶ 10. However, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants did not cure these defects, replace the vehicle, or make other restitution, despite having several opportunities to do so. Id. ¶¶ 11, 26. Based on these allegations, Plaintiff asserts several causes of action, including for breach of express and implied warranties under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1790 et seq. (“Song-Beverly”). See Id. at ¶¶ 8-46. Plaintiff's only cause of action against Tuttle-Click is Count Five, for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. See Id. ¶¶ 29-33.

         Defendants removed this action on April 15, 2019, asserting diversity jurisdiction. See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff now seeks to remand the action back to state court. See Dkt. No. 11.


         “Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed” to federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). District courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions between citizens of different states in which the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). To properly invoke diversity jurisdiction, the defendant bears the burden of proving that the parties in the action are completely diverse, meaning that “each plaintiff [is] of a different citizenship from each defendant.” Grancare, LLC v. Thrower by & through Mills, 889 F.3d 543, 548 (9th Cir. 2018).

         If the district court lacks jurisdiction over an action, a plaintiff may seek remand to state court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). There is a “strong presumption” in favor of remand, and “[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Guas v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). Accordingly, “[t]he strong presumption against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper . . . .” Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th Cir. 2009).


         Here, Defendants' notice of removal states that there is complete diversity because Plaintiff is a citizen of California[1] and Ford is a citizen of Michigan and Delaware. See Id. at ¶¶ 19, 36. Defendants further assert that the only claim against Tuttle-Click, the non-diverse Defendant, is barred by the statute of limitations. See Id. at ¶ 2. As such, Defendants state that Tuttle-Click was fraudulently joined, and its California citizenship should not defeat federal diversity jurisdiction. Id. at ¶ 36. Alternatively, Defendants request that the Court exercise its discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 to sever Tuttle-Click from this action. See Id. at ¶¶ 34-36. The Court addresses each argument in turn.

         A. Fraudulent Joinder

         Tuttle-Click, as a corporation organized under the laws of California, would ordinarily defeat federal diversity jurisdiction because Plaintiff is also a citizen of California. See Compl. ¶¶ 2, 5. Although the removing party must establish complete diversity, “[i]n determining whether there is complete diversity, district courts may disregard the citizenship of a non-diverse defendant who has been fraudulently joined.” Grancare, 889 F.3d at 548. The Ninth Circuit has clarified that there are two ways to establish fraudulent joinder:

(1) actual fraud in the pleading of jurisdictional facts, or (2) inability of the plaintiff to establish a cause of action against the ...

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