United States District Court, C.D. California
Present: The Honorable STEPHEN V. WILSON, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND 
Introduction and Background
Castillo (“Plaintiff”) filed this motion to
remand on October 30, 2019, seeking to remand this case to
Los Angeles Superior Court. Dkt. 8. Lundt & Sprungli
(USA) Inc. (“Defendant”) first removed this case
on October 1, 2019, asserting in its notice of removal that
because the state court complaint references a violation of
the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Dkt.
1 at 1. Plaintiff alleges that she is blind, and that
Defendant's website is not accessible to her, preventing
her from accessing Defendant's goods and services.
Id. at 13-15. The state court complaint includes a
single cause of action for “Violation of the Unruh
Civil Rights Act”, and specifically states that
“the conduct alleged herein violates various provisions
of the [ADA]”, which also creates liability under the
Unruh Act via California Civil Code § 51(f). Dkt. 1-1 at
16-17. Plaintiff seeks both statutory damages and injunctive
relief under the Unruh Act, as well as reasonable
attorney's fees. Id. at 17.
motion asserts that because the sole cause of action alleged
in the Complaint is a violation of state law, federal
jurisdiction does not exist. Dkt. 8 at 3. Defendant argues in
both its Notice of Removal and Opposition to the Motion to
Remand that because Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief as well
as damages, this case is distinguishable from binding Ninth
Circuit precedent holding that Unruh Act damages claims
cannot create federal jurisdiction. Dkt. 9 at 3-6. Plaintiff
also asserts that Plaintiff premises her Unruh Act claims
exclusively on violation of the ADA and refuses to stipulate
that she will not proceed solely with reference to the Unruh
Act, thereby creating federal question jurisdiction.
Id. at 7-9.
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).
“A federal court is presumed to lack jurisdiction in a
particular case unless the contrary affirmatively
appears.” Stock West, Inc. v. Confederated Tribes
of Colville Reservation, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir.
1989). An action in state court can generally be removed to
federal court when the case could have originally been
brought in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441; see
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Services, Inc., 545 U.S.
546, 563 (2005). The defendant bears the burden of proving
removal jurisdiction. Leite v. Crane Co., 749 F.3d
1117, 1121-22 (9th Cir. 2014). Any doubt regarding removal
jurisdiction is construed against the defendant and in favor
of remanding the case to state court. Gaus v. Miles,
Inc. 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992); see also
Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th
Cir. 2009) (“[T]he court resolves all ambiguity in
favor of remand to state court.”).
courts have original jurisdiction over all civil actions that
arise under federal law. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A case may
arise under federal law where “it appears that some
substantial, disputed question of federal law is a necessary
element of one of the well pleaded state claims.”
Franchise Tax Bd. of State of Cal. v. Construction
Laborers Vacation Tr. for Southern Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 13
(1983); see also Armstrong v. N. Mariana Islands,
576 F.3d 950, 955 (9th Cir. 2009). “When a claim can be
supported by alternative and independent theories - one of
which is a state law theory and one of which is a federal law
theory - federal question jurisdiction does not attach
because federal law is not a necessary element of the
claim.” Rains v. Criterion Sys., Inc., 80 F.3d
339, 346 (9th Cir. 1996).
the well-pleaded complaint rule, “federal jurisdiction
exists only when a federal question is presented on the face
of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.”
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392
(1987). “[A] case will not be removable if the
complaint does not affirmatively allege a federal
claim.” Beneficial Nat'l Bank v. Anderson,
539 U.S. 1, 6 (2003). “The plaintiff is the master of
his or her complaint and may avoid federal jurisdiction by
exclusive reliance on state law.” Easton v.
Crossland Mortg. Corp., 114 F.3d 979, 982 (9th Cir.
1997); see also ARCO Envt'l. Remediation, L.L.C. v.
Dep't. of Health and Envt'l Quality of the State of
Mont., 213 F.3d 1108, 1114 (9th Cir. 2000).
Plaintiff's Complaint adequately pleads a state law
theory of liability, prevent federal question jurisdiction
Complaint does not affirmatively state a cause of action
under the ADA. See generally Dkt. 1-1. It does
include specific allegations of intentional
discrimination, which as Defendant acknowledges,
distinguishes liability under the Unruh Act from liability
via ADA violation. See Dkt. 1-1 ¶ 45; Dkt. 9 at
7. Accordingly, the Court concludes that under
Rains, Plaintiff has adequately pled an independent
state law basis for liability under the Unruh Act (via
intentional discrimination), and therefore federal question
jurisdiction does not necessarily attach. 80 F.3d at 346;
see also Rutherford v. La Jolla Riviera Apartment House,
LLC, 19-1349-JM-MDD, Dkt. 12 at 7-8 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 11,
2019) (collecting a wide variety of cases finding removal
improper given non-ADA violations of the Unruh Act alleged);
Wander v. Kaus, 304 F.3d 856, 859 (9th Cir. 2002)
(“Federal-question jurisdiction over a state-law claim
is not created just because a violation of federal law is an
element of the state law claim.”).
also argues that because the Ninth Circuit in Wander
did not address the inclusion of injunctive relief claims
(because the injunctive claims in that case had previously
been dismissed as moot), federal question jurisdiction exists
for injunctive relief claims under the Unruh Act. Dkt. 9 at
4-6. This Court follows the substantial weight of district
court precedent holding that a claim for injunctive relief
potentially premised on ADA violations incorporated into the
Unruh Act does not create federal jurisdiction. See
Rutherford, 19-1349-JM-MDD, Dkt. 12 at 6-7 (collecting
cases supporting this proposition); Thurston v. ClearPath
Lending, Inc., 2019 WL 366405, at *4 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 28,
2019). Defendant's reference to Pickern v. Best W.
Timber Cove Lodge Marina Resort overstates the holding
of that case and the hypothetical situation described there
does not apply to this case, because Plaintiff has adequately
pled intentional discrimination, creating an independent
state law basis for jurisdiction under the Unruh Act. 194
F.Supp.2d 1128, 1132 n.5 (E.D. Cal. 2002).
Plaintiff's request for ...