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Wang v. Foot Locker Retail, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California, Southern Division

October 21, 2019

DAVID WANG, Plaintiff,
v.
FOOT LOCKER RETAIL, INC., a corporation, FOOT LOCKER, INC., a corporation, and DOES 1 - 10, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND TO STATE COURT [DKT. 11]

          CORMAC J. CARNEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff David Wang asserts claims against Defendants Foot Locker Retail, Inc., and Foot Locker, Inc. under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, alleging that Defendants failed to provide him reasonable accommodations, wrongfully terminated him, and wrongfully discriminated against him based on his disability and race. Foot Locker Retail, Inc. removed the case to federal court over a year after Plaintiff says that entity received notice of the complaint. Neither party disputes that Foot Locker, Inc. has not been properly served. Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to remand. (Dkt. 11 [hereinafter “Mot.”].) For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.[1]

         II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this case in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 15, 2018 against Foot Locker, Inc. (“FLI”), and Foot Locker Retail, Inc. (“Foot Locker Retail”). (Dkt. 1-2 [Complaint, hereinafter “Compl.”].) The complaint was filed as a “limited civil” case, which in California state court means that the amount in controversy is less than $25, 000. (Compl. at 1); see Cal. Civ. Proc. Code. § 85.

         On June 1, 2018, CT Corporation System (“CT”)-Foot Locker Retail's agent for service of process in California (Dkt. 11-6)-was served with the summons and complaint, among other documents. (Dkts. 11-2, 11-4.) The service was meant to be on both Foot Locker Retail (Dkt. 11-2) and FLI (Dkt. 11-4). However, on June 2, 2018, CT notified Plaintiff that FLI was not listed in its records or in the records of the State of California, so it was “unable to forward.” (Dkt. 11-5.) Although it appears that the summons used for Foot Locker Retail contained FLI's name (see Dkt. 15-1), there is no evidence that CT rejected service on behalf of Foot Locker Retail. On July 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed the proof of service of summons on Foot Locker Retail. (See Dkt. 11-2.)

         On August 6, 2019, Plaintiff, through new counsel, filed in state court a “Motion for Reclassification of Action.” (Dkt. 15-1, Ex. C.) In the reclassification motion, Plaintiff asserted that his “damages far exceed the $25, 000.00 threshold applicable to the limited jurisdiction of this Court, ” and that Plaintiff's former counsel, due to “neglect, ” “failed to file the complaint in an unlimited jurisdiction, and did not seek reclassification despite knowing that more than $25, 000 was at stake.” (Id. at 2.)

         Foot Locker Retail removed on August 26, 2019. (Dkt. 1.)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A defendant may remove a case over which federal courts have original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Federal courts have diversity jurisdiction where there is complete diversity between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). “[I]f the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable, ” a defendant may remove within 30 days after receiving “a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3). However, a case may not be removed under Section (b)(3) more than one year after the case is filed “unless the district court finds that the plaintiff has acted in bad faith in order to prevent a defendant from removing the action.” Id. § 1446(c)(1).

         Principles of federalism and judicial economy require courts to “scrupulously confine their [removal] jurisdiction to the precise limits which [Congress] has defined.” See Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 109 (1941). Accordingly, “[t]he removal statute is strictly construed 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.” California ex rel. Lockyer v. Dynegy, Inc., 375 F.3d 831, 838 (9th Cir. 2004); Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. One-Year Bar

         This case falls squarely under Section (b)(3): it was not removable (even if Foot Locker Retail knew about it) until Plaintiff filed the reclassification motion. The Court is not persuaded by either party's argument that Section ...


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