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Mozingo v. Japan Airlines Co., Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. California

January 9, 2020

Pamela MOZINGO, Plaintiff,
JAPAN AIRLINES CO., LTD., a foreign company (Japan) that is duly qualified to and in fact conducting business with the State of California as company number C0282499; and Does 1 through 100, Defendants.

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          Daniel R. Krinsky, Law Offices of Daniel R. Krinsky, San Diego, CA, for Plaintiff.

          Kevin Richard Sutherland, Clyde and Co. U.S. LLP, San Francisco, CA, for Defendants.


         (ECF No. 1)

         Hon. Janis L. Sammartino, United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court is the Notice of Removal of Japan Airlines Co., Ltd. to United States District Court ("Not. of Removal," ECF No. 1). On December 27, 2019, Defendant removed this action from the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego on the grounds that "it is a civil action between a citizen of the State of California and a citizen of a foreign state, and the amount in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs," id. ¶ 7, and "[t]his is an action over which the Court has original jurisdiction based on the existence of a federal question under 28 U.S.C. Section 1331" because "plaintiff's claims indisputably arise under the Montreal Convention." Id. ¶¶ 22, 25. Although Plaintiff Pamela Mozingo did not file a motion to remand, "[t]he court may—indeed must—remand an action sua sponte if it determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction." GFD, LLC v. Carter, No. CV 12-08985 MMM FFMX, 2012 WL 5830079, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 15, 2012) (citing Kelton Arms Condominium Owners Ass'n v. Homestead Ins. Co., 346 F.3d 1190, 1192 (9th Cir. 2003)); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) ("If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.").

         "Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.

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of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994). Consequently, it is "presume[d] that federal courts lack jurisdiction unless the contrary appears affirmatively from the record." DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 342, 126 S.Ct. 1854, 164 L.Ed.2d 589 (2006) (quoting Renne v. Geary, 501 U.S. 312, 316, 111 S.Ct. 2331, 115 L.Ed.2d 288 (1991)). "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, 154 L.Ed.2d 368 (2002). The party invoking the removal statute bears the burden of establishing that federal subject-matter jurisdiction exists. Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir. 1988). Moreover, courts "strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction." Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Boggs v. Lewis, 863 F.2d 662, 663 (9th Cir. 1988)); Takeda v. Nw. Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 765 F.2d 815, 818 (9th Cir. 1985). Therefore, "[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance." Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566 (citing Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979)).

         I. Diversity Jurisdiction

         Federal courts have diversity jurisdiction "where the amount in controversy" exceeds $75,000, and the parties are of "diverse" state citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. "Where it is not facially evident from the complaint that more than $75,000 is in controversy, the removing party must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in controversy meets the jurisdictional threshold." Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003) (per curiam); accord Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090). "Where doubt regarding the right to removal exists, a case should be remanded to state court." Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090.

         Here, the underlying complaint states only that it is an unlimited civil case seeking in excess of $25,000. See Compl. (ECF No. 1-2) at 10.[1] Nonetheless, Defendant claims—based on the severity of the injuries Plaintiff alleges she sustained, see Not. of Removal ¶¶ 17-19 (citing Compl. ¶¶ 9-10, 17-18)—that "[i]t is facially apparent" that she is seeking damages in excess of $75,000 because she "seeks compensatory damages, general damages for past and future pain and ...

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