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Bores v. Lime Crime, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 19, 2019

Guadalupe Bores
v.
Lime Crime, Inc.

          Present: The Honorable Fernando M. Olguin, United States District Judge.

          CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

         Proceedings: (In Chambers) Order Remanding Action

         On November 12, 2019, defendant Lime Crime, Inc. (“defendant”) removed this action on federal question jurisdiction grounds pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1441. (See Dkt. 1, Notice of Removal (“NOR”) at ¶¶ 3-4). Defendant, however, failed to comply with the procedures for removal. See 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a) (“A defendant or defendants desiring to remove any civil action from a State court shall file in the district court of the United States for the district and division within which such action is pending a notice of removal signed pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal, together with a copy of all process, pleadings, and orders served upon such defendant or defendants in such action.”). Specifically, defendant did not file a copy of the state-court complaint with its Notice of Removal. (See, generally, Dkt.). Pursuant to the court's order, (see Dkt. 15, Court's Order of December 9, 2019), defendant submitted a copy of the state court complaint. (See Dkt. 16-1, Complaint). Plaintiff Guadalupe Bores's (“Bores” or “plaintiff”) complaint asserts a single claim for violation of California's Unruh Civil Rights Act (“Unruh Act”), Cal. Civ. Code §§ 51, et seq. (See id. at ¶¶ 37-51). Having reviewed the pleadings, the court hereby remands this action to state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1447(c).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute[.]” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 1675 (1994). The courts are presumed to lack jurisdiction unless the contrary appears affirmatively from the record. See DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 342 n. 3, 126 S.Ct. 1854, 1861 (2006). Federal courts have a duty to examine jurisdiction sua sponte before proceeding to the merits of a case, see Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583, 119 S.Ct. 1563, 1569 (1999), “even in the absence of a challenge from any party.” Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514, 126 S.Ct. 1235, 1244 (2006).

         “The right of removal is entirely a creature of statute and a suit commenced in a state court must remain there until cause is shown for its transfer under some act of Congress.” Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. v. Henson, 537 U.S. 28, 32, 123 S.Ct. 366, 369 (2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). Where Congress has acted to create a right of removal, those statutes, unless otherwise stated, are strictly construed against removal jurisdiction.[1] See id. Unless otherwise expressly provided by Congress, “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); see Dennis v. Hart, 724 F.3d 1249, 1252 (9th Cir. 2013) (same). A removing defendant bears the burden of establishing that removal is proper. See Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 684 (9th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (noting the “longstanding, near-canonical rule that the burden on removal rests with the removing defendant”); Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (“The strong presumption against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, if there is any doubt regarding the existence of subject matter jurisdiction, the court must resolve those doubts in favor of remanding the action to state court. See Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566 (“Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance.”).

         “Under the plain terms of § 1441(a), in order properly to remove [an] action pursuant to that provision, [the removing defendant] must demonstrate that original subject-matter jurisdiction lies in the federal courts.” Syngenta Crop Protection, 537 U.S. at 33, 123 S.Ct. at 370. Failure to do so requires that the case be remanded, as “[s]ubject matter jurisdiction may not be waived, and. . . the district court must remand if it lacks jurisdiction.” Kelton Arms Condo. Owners Ass'n, Inc. v. Homestead Ins. Co., 346 F.3d 1190, 1192 (9th Cir. 2003). Indeed, “[i]f at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); see Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1194 n. 2 (9th Cir. 1988) (“It is elementary that the subject matter jurisdiction of the district court is not a waivable matter and may be raised at anytime by one of the parties, by motion or in the responsive pleadings, or sua sponte by the trial or reviewing court.”); Washington v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 2009 WL 1519894, *1 (C.D. Cal. 2009) (a district court may remand an action where the court finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction either by motion or sua sponte).

         For purposes of removal based on federal question jurisdiction, the well-pleaded complaint rule “provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.” Smallwood v. Allied Van Lines, Inc., 660 F.3d 1115, 1120 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 2429 (1987)). “As the master of the complaint, a plaintiff may defeat removal by choosing not to plead independent federal claims.” ARCO Envt'l Remediation, L.L.C. v. Dep't of Health & Envt'l Quality of Montana, 213 F.3d 1108, 1114 (9th Cir. 2000).

         DISCUSSION

         The court's review of the NOR and the attached Complaint makes clear that this court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the instant matter. In other words, plaintiff could not have originally brought this action in federal court, in that plaintiff does not competently allege facts supplying federal question jurisdiction, and therefore removal was improper. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a);[2] Caterpillar Inc., 482 U.S. at 392, 107 S.Ct. at 2429 (“Only state-court actions that originally could have been filed in federal court may be removed to federal court by the defendant.”) (footnote omitted).

         The Complaint asserts only one state-law claim under the Unruh Act. (Dkt. 16-1, Complaint at ¶¶ 37-51). Defendant, however, asserts in conclusory fashion that federal question jurisdiction exists because “it appears from the Complaint that this is a civil rights action premised on and alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act [(“ADA”)], 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181, et seq.” (See Dkt. 1, NOR at ¶ 4). However, the fact that plaintiff relies in part on ADA violations as the basis for her state claim, (see Dkt. 16-1, Complaint at ¶¶ 37-51); Bell v. Retail Servs. & Sys., Inc., 2018 WL 3455811, *2 (N.D. Cal.) (“[T]he Unruh Act . . . incorporate[s] the ADA, such that the ADA may serve as a ‘hook' for an alleged violation of state law.”), is insufficient to confer federal question jurisdiction. See Pizarro v. CubeSmart, 2014 WL 3434335, *2 (C.D. Cal. 2014) (remanding action asserting Unruh Act. . . claim[] for lack of federal question jurisdiction); Bell, 2018 WL 3455811, at *2 (same); Rios v. New York and Company, Inc., 2017 WL 3575220, *2 (C.D. Cal. 2017) (finding plaintiff's reliance on ADA violations as a hook for violation of the Unruh Act did not confer federal question jurisdiction); Thurston v. Omni Hotels Mgmt. Corp., 2017 WL 3034333, *1 (C.D. Cal. 2017) (granting plaintiff's motion to remand Unruh Act claim premised on ADA violations); see also Franchise Tax Bd. of the State of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 27-28, 103 S.Ct. 2841, 2856 (1983), superseded by statute on other grounds, as recognized in DB Healthcare, LLC v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Inc., 852 F.3d 868, 874 (9th Cir. 2017) (“Congress has given the lower federal courts jurisdiction to hear, originally or by removal from state court, only those cases in which a well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law.”).

         In short, given that any doubt regarding the existence of subject matter jurisdiction must be resolved in favor of remanding the action to state court, see Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566, the court is not persuaded, under the circumstances here, that defendant has met its burden. Therefore, there is no basis for federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         This order is not intended . Nor is it intended to be included in or submitted to any online ...


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