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Martinez v. Baart Programs, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 21, 2019

Leidy Silva Martinez
BAART Programs, Inc., et ah

          Present: The Honorable ANDRE BIROTTE JR., United States District Judge.


         Proceedings: [In Chambers] ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR REMAND

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Leidy Silva Martinez's ("Plaintiff) Motion for Remand ("Motion," Dt. No. 14). Defendant BAART Programs, Inc. ("Defendant") filed an opposition and Plaintiff filed a reply. The Court will resolve the Motion without oral argument and therefore VACATES the November 22, 2019 hearing. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; Local Rule 7-15. Defendant's request to appear telephomcally (Dkt. No. 27) is DENIED AS MOOT The Motion is GRANTED

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff asserts California wage and hour claims for (1) failure to provide meal periods: (2) failure to provide rest periods; (3) nonpayment of overtime compensation; (4) knowing and intentional failure to comply with itemized employee wage statement provisions; (5) waiting time penalties; and (6) civil penalties under the Private Attorneys' General Act ("PAGA"), Cal. Labor Code § 2698, et seq. Defendant removed the action to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff moves for remand on the ground that there is not complete diversity between the parties and Defendant has not shown that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.


         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and thus have subject matter jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution and Congress. See Bender v. Williamsport Area School Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). “Because of the Congressional purpose to restrict the jurisdiction of the federal courts on removal, ” statutes conferring jurisdiction are “strictly construed and federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Duncan v. Stuetzle, 76 F.3d 1480, 1485 (9th Cir. 1996) (citations and quotations omitted).

         There is a strong presumption that the Court is without jurisdiction until affirmatively proven otherwise. See Fifty Assocs. v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 446 F.2d 1187, 1190 (9th Cir. 1970). When an action is removed from state court, the removing party bears the burden of demonstrating that removal is proper. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).

         Federal diversity jurisdiction exists when the parties are completely diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, a defendant may remove an action from state court to federal court if the diversity and amount in controversy requirements are satisfied and if none of the defendants are citizens of the forum state.

         The amount in controversy, for purposes of diversity jurisdiction, is the total “amount at stake in the underlying litigation.” Theis Research, Inc. v. Brown & Bain, 400 F.3d 659, 662 (9th Cir. 2005). “[I]n assessing the amount in controversy, a court must ‘assume that the allegations of the complaint are true and assume that a jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff on all claims made in the complaint.'” Campbell v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 471 Fed. App'x 646, 648 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Kenneth Rothschild Trust v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 199 F.Supp.2d 993, 1001 (C.D. Cal. 2002)).

         “The ‘strong presumption' against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper.” Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566. And while “‘a defendant's notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold,' . . . ‘[e]vidence establishing the amount is required'” when “defendant's assertion of the amount in controversy is contested by plaintiffs.” Ibarra v. Manheim Invs., Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014)). The defendant must establish the amount in controversy by the preponderance of the evidence. See Dart, 135 S.Ct. at 553-54.


         Defendant has not shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. In its opposition, Defendant calculates that the amount in controversy-comprised of compensatory damages, penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”), and attorneys' fees-to be “at least $76, 825” Opp'n 9:15-17.

         Defendant's calculation is unpersuasive, however, because it relies on assumptions about the rate of its alleged violations that have no basis in the Complaint. Specifically, Defendant assumes a violation rate of 100% for the claims for unpaid wages for missed meal and rest periods, and for unpaid overtime. These assumptions give rise to amounts in controversy of $3, 900, $7, 800, and $15, 600 as compensatory damages for these claims.[1] ...

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