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Gutierrez v. Mcneilus Truck & Manufacturing, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

October 21, 2019

JOSE GUTIERREZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MCNEILUS TRUCK & MANUFACTURING, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND Re: Dkt. No. 12

          Edward J. Davila United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Jose Gutierrez (“Gutierrez”) was injured while working for Green Team of San Jose (“Green Team”), a waste disposal company. Gutierrez and his spouse, Delfina Gutierrez (collectively “Plaintiffs”), initiated a personal injury suit in state court against Defendant McNeilus Truck & Manufacturing, Inc. (“Defendant”), the designer and manufacturer of the garbage trucks used by Green Team, and Does 1 through 50. Defendant removed the action to this court based on diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. §1441(b). Presently before the court is Plaintiffs' motion to remand. Plaintiffs contend that the action is “nonremovable” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c) because the action arises under California's workers' compensation law. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to remand will be denied.

         II.BACKGROUND [1]

         Green Team uses front-end loading garbage trucks designed and manufactured by Defendant. The trucks are equipped with forks. The forks are inserted into the two sides of a debris box to raise and tilt the box so that the garbage empties into the truck bed. The forks do not have any securing devices to prevent a debris box from slipping off and falling into the truck bed. Defendant's operator manual does not include any instructions regarding how to retrieve a debris box when it slips off of the forks and falls into the truck bed.

         On September 29, 2017, a Green Team employee was on his garbage collection route when a debris box slipped off of the forks and fell into the truck bed. Green Team employees decided to try to retrieve the debris box by connecting the box by chain to a hydraulic lifting device which would then lift the box out of the truck bed. The plan was to have Gutierrez attach the chain to the debris box. Gutierrez used the ladder installed by Defendant at the rear of the garbage truck to climb on top of the truck. While Gutierrez was on the roof of the truck, he slipped and fell twelve to fourteen feet onto the ground and sustained severe injuries. Gutierrez filed an application for workers' compensation benefits and has received approximately $300, 000 in benefits. Pls.' Mem. of P. & A. In Supp. of Mot. To Remand 2 (Dkt. No. 12-1).

         Plaintiffs initiated this suit in state court asserting claims against Defendant for general negligence, products liability and loss of consortium. Plaintiffs indicated on the form complaint that Santa Clara County Superior Court was the “proper court because [u]nder California Workers' Compensation Law, and specifically California Labor Code Section 3852, [P]laintiffs claim employer has the right to subrogation of any Workers' Compensation benefits paid to Plaintiff which arises under Labor Code 3852 and his employer Green Team of San Jose, Inc.” Dkt. No. 1-2. Defendant filed an answer in Santa Clara County Superior Court and a few days later removed the action to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1441(b).

         III. STANDARDS

         A remand may be ordered either for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or for any defect in the removal procedure. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Where a motion for remand is filed, the burden of proof is on the defendant to establish that removal was proper. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). Removal statutes are strictly construed and doubts as to removability are resolved in favor of remanding the case. Id.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Here, Plaintiffs do not dispute that the parties are diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdiction minimum under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Rather, Plaintiffs contend that this is a “nonremovable action” under 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c) because Plaintiffs' claims “aris[e] under” California's worker compensation law. The court disagrees.

         Section 1445(c) provides that “[a] civil action in any State court arising under the workmen's compensation laws of such State may not be removed to any district court of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c). If section 1445(c) applies, a case is not removable even if it presents a federal question or there is diversity. Humphrey v. Sequentia, Inc., 58 F.3d 1238, 1244 (8th Cir. 1995).

         Whether an action is one “arising under the workmen's compensation laws” of a State under section 1445(c) is governed by federal law. Humphrey, 58 F.3d at 1245. Although neither Congress nor the Ninth Circuit has defined “arising under” in the context of section 1445(c), “all courts to have addressed the issue agree that ‘arising under' in §1445 has the same meaning as it does in 28 U.S.C. § 1331.” Snelling Emp't, LLC v. Cousins Packaging, Inc., No. 14-5018 RMW, 2015 WL 328402, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 23, 2015). In the context of § 1331, “arising under” means that “it is apparent from the face of the complaint either that (1) a federal law creates the plaintiff's cause of action; or (2) if a state law creates the cause of action, a federal law that creates a cause of action is a necessary element of the plaintiff's claim.” Virgin v. Cnty. of San Luis Obispo, 201 F.3d 1141, 1142-43 (9th Cir. 2000). “Importing that definition to § 1445(c), a civil action ‘arises under' a state's workers'-compensation law when the worker's-compensation law creates the plaintiff's cause of action or is a necessary element of the claim.” Ramirez v. Saia Inc., No. 14-04590 ODW, 2014 WL 3928416, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2014).

         Plaintiffs contend that their claims “arise under” California's workers' compensation law not because their three claims for negligence, products liability and loss of consortium “arise under” California's workers' compensation law, but because California Labor Code section 3852 provides Gutierrez's employer, Green Team, a right to subrogation. California Labor Code section 3852 provides in relevant part that “[a]ny employer who pays, or becomes obligated to pay compensation, or who pays, or becomes obligated to ...


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