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Rivera v. Marriott International, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 4, 2019

LORENZO RIVERA, Plaintiff,
v.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC.; et al. Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REMAND [12]

          OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On April 24, 2019, Plaintiff Lorenzo Rivera (“Rivera”) filed this putative class action in Los Angeles Superior Court against Marriot International, Inc. (“MII”). (Notice of Removal (“Removal”) Ex. A (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1-1.) On June 10, 2019, MII removed the action pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d) (“CAFA”). (Removal 1, ECF No. 1.) Rivera now moves to remand this action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Mot. to Remand (“Mot.”), ECF No. 12.) For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Remand.[1]

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Rivera brings this class action against MII on behalf of himself and the putative class he seeks to represent (collectively the “Class”). The Class consists of “all non-exempt employees, including, but not limited to, dishwashers, cooks, runners, bartenders, servers, cashiers, other food and beverage staff, housekeeping staff, front desk staff, maintenance staff, and guest service representatives currently and/or formerly employed by Defendants [MII] during the Class Period.” (Compl. ¶ 1.) Rivera is a citizen of California. (Removal ¶ 12.) MII is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Maryland. (Removal ¶ 15.) Rivera alleges seven causes of action against MII: (1) Failure to Pay Wages (2) Failure to Provide Meal Periods (3) Failure to Authorize or Permit Rest Periods (4) Failure to Pay Wages Due at Separation of Employment (5) Failure to Provide Accurate Wage Statements and Failure to Issue and Maintain Records (6) Failure to Indemnify for Expenditures or Losses in Discharge of Duties (7) Unfair Business Practices. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 33-87.)

         On June 10, 2019, MII removed this action under CAFA alleging (1) the putative class is greater than 100 members; (2) diversity is satisfied; and (3) the amount in controversy is greater than $5 million. (Removal ¶¶ 11-28.) MII supports its Removal with a Declaration from Tiffany Schafer (“Schafer”), the Senior Area Director of Human Services at MII. (Decl. of Tiffany Schafer (“Schafer Decl.”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 2.) Rivera moves to remand.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         CAFA allows for federal jurisdiction over a purported class action when (1) the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million (2) at least one putative class member is a citizen of a state different from any defendant, and (3) the putative class exceeds 100 members. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d)(2), (5). “[T]he burden of establishing removal jurisdiction remains . . . on the proponent of federal jurisdiction.” Abrego Abrego v. Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 685 (9th Cir. 2006). Generally, removal statutes are strictly construed against removal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). However, “no antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking CAFA.” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, 574 U.S. 81, 89 (2014).

         “[A] defendant's notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold.” Id. If the plaintiff disputes the alleged amount in controversy, “both sides submit proof and the court decides, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has been satisfied.” Id. at 88. The parties may submit evidence, “including affidavits or declarations, or other summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal.” Ibarra v. Manheim Invs., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d 373, 377 (9th Cir. 1997)). “[A] defendant cannot establish removal jurisdiction by mere speculation and conjecture, with unreasonable assumptions.” Id.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         MII claims that removal is proper because there are more than 100 putative class members, minimal diversity is satisfied, and the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. (Removal ¶¶ 11-28.) MII asserts that the number of putative class members is 4, 342 employees. (Removal ¶ 24.) MII further argues that the parties are minimally diverse because MII is a Delaware Corporation with its principal place of business in Maryland, while Rivera is a citizen of California. (Removal ¶¶ 12, 15.) Lastly, MII contends that the face of the Complaint easily demonstrates that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million, and with over $3, 112, 662.50 in just attorney's fees. (Removal ¶¶ 18, 41.)

         Rivera does not dispute that the class is over 100 members or that the parties are minimally diverse. (Mot. 4.) However, Rivera argues that MII fails to establish the amount in controversy because MII speculates a 100% violation rate. (Mot 2.) Rivera further asserts that MII's contention that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million is inconsistent with its contention that it did not employ Rivera. (Mot. 6.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that MII has established that the amount in controversy is greater than $5 million.

         A. Employment of Mr. Rivera

         Rivera asserts that MII's argument that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million is inconsistent with its contention that it did not employ Rivera. (Mot. 6.) MII explains, and the Court concurs, that, despite its contention that Marriot Hotel Services, Inc. (“MHS”) and not MII employed Rivera, the amount in controversy at issue is based on the putative class aggrieved by MII. (Opp'n 6.) Thus, the issue of Rivera's true employer is irrelevant on a motion to remand and MII may remove so long as it ...


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