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Lopez v. First Student, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 2, 2019

Norma Lopez, et al.
v.
First Student, Inc., et al.

          PRESENT: THE HONORABLE JESUS G. BERNAL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

          CIVIL MINUTES-GENERAL

         Proceedings: Order DENYING Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Dkt. No. 8)

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs Norma Lopez, Cindy Mitchell, and Vada Neice's (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) motion to remand the case to San Bernardino County Superior Court. (“Motion, ” Dkt. No. 8.) After considering papers filed in support of and in opposition to the Motion and the arguments presented by counsel at the hearing, the Court DENIES the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case commenced on July 11, 2019, when Plaintiffs Lopez, Mitchell, and Neice filed a class action complaint against Defendants First Student, Inc., First Student Management, LLC, and FirstGroup America, Inc. (“Defendants” or “First Student”) in San Bernardino County Superior Court. (“Complaint, ” Dkt. No. 1-1.) Plaintiffs allege three causes of action: (1) failure to pay split shift wages under California Labor Code §§ 1197, 1994, 1194.2 and Wage Order 9-2001; (2) failure to provide adequate wage statements under California Labor Code § 226; and (3) unlawful business practices under California Business & Professions Code § 17200, et seq. (Id.) On August 30, 2019, Defendants removed the matter. (“Notice of Removal” or “NOR, ” Dkt. No. 1.)

         On October 21, 2019, Plaintiffs moved to remand. (“Motion, ” Dkt. No. 8.) In support of the Motion, Plaintiffs filed declarations from Hunter Pyle (“Pyle Declaration, ” Dkt. No. 8-1), Lopez (“Lopez Declaration, ” Dkt. No. 8-2), Mitchell (“Mitchell Declaration, ” Dkt. No. 8-3), and Neice (“Neice Declaration, ” Dkt. No. 8-4). On October 28, 2019, Defendants opposed the Motion (“Opposition, ” Dkt. No. 9) and made evidentiary objections to Plaintiffs' Declarations (“Objections, ” Dkt. No. 9-1).[1] On November 18, 2019, Plaintiffs replied. (“Reply, ” Dkt. No. 12.)[2]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, possessing only that power authorized by the Constitution and statute.” Gunn v. Minton, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013). The Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) vests federal courts with original jurisdiction over class actions involving at least 100 class members, minimal diversity, and an amount in controversy (“AIC”) that exceeds $5, 000, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d).

         Generally, courts must “strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). “However, ‘no anti-removal presumption attends cases invoking CAFA…'” Garcia v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2016 WL 6068104, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 14, 2016) (quoting Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 553 (2014)). Instead, Congress intended CAFA to be interpreted expansively. Ibarra v. Manheim Investments, Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015).

         A defendant seeking removal of an action to federal district court need only offer a “short and plain statement of the grounds for removal” in its notice of removal. 28 U.S.C § 1446(a). To meet CAFA's diversity requirement, a removing defendant must show “any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2)(A). “Thus, under CAFA complete diversity is not required; ‘minimal diversity' suffices.” Serrano v. 180 Connect, Inc., 478 F.3d 1018, 1021 (9th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted).

         To satisfy CAFA's amount-in-controversy requirement, “a removing defendant must plausibly assert that the amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000.” Garcia, 2016 WL 6068104, at *3 (citing Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1197). A removing “defendant's amount-in-controversy allegation should be accepted when not contested by the plaintiff or questioned by the court.” Dart Cherokee, 135 S.Ct. at 553. Where a plaintiff questions the AIC asserted, further evidence establishing that the amount alleged meets the jurisdictional minimum is required. Id. at 554. “In such a case, both sides submit proof and the court decides, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has been satisfied.” Id.

         “The parties may submit evidence outside the complaint, including affidavits or declarations, or other ‘summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal.'” Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1197 (quoting Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d 373, 377 (9th Cir. 1997)). “Under this system, CAFA's requirements are to be tested by consideration of real evidence and the reality of what is at stake in the litigation, using reasonable assumptions underlying the defendant's theory of damages exposure.” Id. at 1198.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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