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Layhee v. Fratila

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 6, 2019




         On April 5, 2019, Plaintiff Darcie Layhee filed the instant suit against Defendant Bogdan-Cristian Fratila in San Francisco County Superior Court, alleging personal injury based on an October 14, 2018 vehicle accident. (Not. of Removal, Exh. A (“Compl.”) at 4-5, Dkt. No. 1.) On September 13, 2019, Defendant removed the case to federal court. (Not. of Removal at 1.)

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to remand the case to state court. (Pl.'s Mot. to Remand, Dkt. No. 9.) The Court deems the matter suitable for disposition without hearing pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), and VACATES the November 21, 2019 hearing. Having considered the parties' filings and relevant legal authority, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to remand.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 14, 2018, Defendant was driving a rental car on California State Route 152. (Pl.'s Mot. to Remand at 2.) Plaintiff was operating a motorcycle behind Defendant. Defendant allegedly “made an unexpected U-turn into the acceleration lane, ” causing Plaintiff to collide with his vehicle. (Id.) Plaintiff suffered significant injuries, including a below-knee amputation. (Id.)

         On April 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed this case against Defendant in state court, alleging claims for motor vehicle and general negligence. (Compl. at 3.) Plaintiff marked the action as “an unlimited civil case (exceeds $25, 000).” (Id. at 1 (all caps omitted).) Plaintiff asserted that she “sustained injuries to her head, body and limbs, all to her damage in a sum that is unknown . . . .” (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff claimed wage loss, loss of use of property, hospital and medical expenses, general damage, property damage, loss of earnings capacity, and prejudgment interest. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff sought compensatory damages according to proof. (Id.)

         On May 24, 2019, Plaintiff sent Defendant a “case overview” packet that contained a photograph of Plaintiff in the hospital bed after her amputation. (Smith Decl. ¶ 5, Dkt. No. 9.) On July 19, 2019, Plaintiff served responses to written discovery requests, stating that Plaintiff's injuries included a left leg amputation, a left leg femur fracture, facial and arm injuries, kidney pyelonephritis, urinary incontinence, and reoccurring urinary tract infections. (Smith Decl. ¶ 6a.) The discovery responses also indicated that Plaintiff would need lifelong ongoing prosthetic leg fittings, and that she would be claiming the value of home nursing services. (Smith Decl. ¶ 6d.) On August 2, 2019, Plaintiff filed a case management conference statement, which stated: “Plaintiff sustained a traumatic below-knee amputation requiring multiple surgeries, a left femur fracture, and multiple lacerations, contusions, and abrasions. Plaintiff's medical specials exceed $50, 000.00 and continue to mount.” (Smith Decl. ¶ 7, Exh. D at 2.)

         On August 13, 2019, Plaintiff sent Defendant a California Code of Civil Procedure § 998 statutory offer to compromise for $2 million. (Smith Decl. ¶ 9.) On August 16, 2019, Defendant received the offer. (Not. of Removal ¶ 9.) On September 13, 2019, Defendant removed the case based on diversity jurisdiction. (Not. of Removal at 1.)

         Plaintiff then filed the instant motion to remand based on the timeliness of removal. (Pl.'s Mot. to Remand at 2.) On October 25, 2019, Defendant filed his opposition. (Def.'s Opp'n, Dkt. No. 12.) On October 31, 2019, Plaintiff filed her reply. (Pl.'s Reply, Dkt. No. 14.)


         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). “It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.” Id. Thus, the removal statute is strictly construed against removal, and “[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (internal citations omitted).


         Plaintiff argues that remand is necessary because Defendant's removal was untimely, as Defendant should have known the case was worth over $75, 000 more than thirty days prior to removal. (Pl.'s Mot. to Remand at 2.) The Court agrees.

         In general, “[t]he mechanics and requirements for removal are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1446. Section 1446(b) identifies two thirty-day periods for removing a case.” Kuxhausen v. BMW Fin. Servs. NA LLC, 707 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation omitted). The first thirty-day removal period is triggered if federal jurisdiction is clear from the initial pleading. Carvalho v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 629 F.3d 876, 885 (9th Cir. 2010). “The second thirty-day removal period is triggered if the initial pleading does not indicate that a case is removable, and the defendant receives ‘a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper' from which removability may first be ascertained.” Id. (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b).) While a defendant “need not ...

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