United States District Court, C.D. California
JUAN J. CHAVEZ, Plaintiff,
HUHTAMAKI, INC., Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND
D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Juan J. Chavez (“Chavez”) brings this putative
wage and hour class action against Defendant Huhtamaki, Inc.
(“Huhtamaki”). Huhtamaki removed the case,
claiming federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness
Act (“CAFA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2).
(Notice of Removal (“Notice”) ¶ 1, ECF No.
1.) Chavez moves to remand (“Motion”). (See Mot.
to Remand (“Mot.”), ECF No. 13.) The Court finds
that jurisdiction does not exists under CAFA and GRANTS
Chavez's Motion to Remand.
brought this wage and hour class action against Huhtamaki on
behalf of himself and the class he seeks to represent
(collectively “Plaintiff Class”). Plaintiff Class
consists of “[a]ll persons who worked for any Defendant
in California as an hourly paid, non-exempt employee at any
time during the period beginning four years before the filing
of the initial complaint in this action.” (Compl.
¶ 24.) Chavez is a citizen of California and has worked
at Huhtamaki for 36 years. (Compl. ¶ 7.) Huhtamaki is a
Kansas Corporation. (Compl. ¶ 9.) Chavez alleges that
Huhtamaki hired Chavez and other class members and classified
them as hourly-paid, non-exempt employees, and failed to
compensate them for all hours worked, meal periods, and/or
missed breaks. (Compl. ¶ 28.) Chavez does not allege a
specific No. of violations, but he contends that the
aggregate claims total only $4, 645, 491.99, below the
threshold for federal jurisdiction. (Mot. 2, 20.) Whereas,
Huhtamaki asserts that the aggregate claims total $11, 386,
044, above the threshold for federal jurisdiction. (Notice
filed its complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court on June 5,
2019. (See Compl.) On July 10, 2019, Huhtamaki removed the
case. (See Notice.) Chavez moved to remand on August 8, 2019.
(See Mot.) This motion is now before the Court.
removed this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, claiming
that this Court has original jurisdiction under CAFA, 28
U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2). (Notice ¶ 1.) CAFA allows for
federal jurisdiction over a purported class action when (1)
there is an amount in controversy (“AIC”)
exceeding $5, 000, 000; (2) at least one putative class
member is a citizen of a state different from defendant; and
(3) the putative class exceeds 100 members. 28 U.S.C. §
1332(d)(2), (d)(5). Generally, removal statutes are strictly
construed against removal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles,
Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).
the Supreme Court has stated that “no antiremoval
presumption attends cases invoking CAFA.” Dart
Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 574 U.S. 81,
89 (2014). Accordingly, three principles apply in CAFA
removal cases. Arias v. Residence Inn by Marriott,
936 F.3d 920, 922 (9th Cir. 2019). “First, a removing
defendant's notice of removal ‘need not contain
evidentiary submissions' but only plausible allegations
of the jurisdictional elements.” Id. (quoting
Ibarra v. Manheim Inv. Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197
(9th Cir. 2015)). “Second, when a defendant's
allegations of removal jurisdiction are challenged, the
defendant's showing on the amount in controversy may rely
on reasonable assumptions.” Id. “Third,
when a statute or contract provides for the recovery of
attorneys' fees, prospective attorneys' fees must be
included in the assessment of the amount in
controversy.” Id. (citing Fritsch v. Swift
Transp. Co. of Ariz., LLC, 899 F.3d 785, 794 (9th Cir.
when the defendant's assertion of the amount in
controversy is challenged by plaintiffs in a motion to
remand, the Supreme Court has said that both sides submit
proof and the court then decides where the preponderance
lies.” Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1198 (citing
Dart Cherokee, 574 U.S. at 88).
parties do not dispute that the Plaintiff Class is made of
more than 100 individuals and that the parties are minimally
diverse as required by CAFA. Thus, the only issue is whether
Huhtamaki has demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence
that the amount in controversy is greater than $5, 000, 000.
determining the amount in controversy, courts first look to
the complaint.” Id. at 1197. When damages are
unstated in a complaint, “the defendant seeking removal
bears the burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence
that the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds $5 million
if federal jurisdiction is challenged.” Id.
(citing Rodriguez v. AT & T Mobility Servs. LLC,
728 F.3d 975, 981 (9th Cir. 2013)). “The parties may
submit evidence outside the complaint, including affidavits
or declarations, or other ‘summary-judgment-type
evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of
removal.'” Id. at 1197 (quoting Singer
v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d 373, 377
(9th Cir.1997)). As Ibarra teaches, “under this system,
a defendant cannot establish removal jurisdiction by mere
speculation and conjecture, with unreasonable
damages are unstated in the complaint, but Chavez asserts
that Huhtamaki improperly removed this action. (Mot. 1.)
Through his Motion and declaration, Chavez challenges
Huhtamaki's calculation assumptions and argues that, as a
matter of law, Huhtamaki erroneously calculated the amount in
controversy. (See Mot. 1; Decl. of Juan J. Chavez
(“Chavez Decl.”), ECF No. 13-1.) Chavez contests
the following four assumptions as unreasonable and
unsupported: (1) each asserted class member employed by
defendant worked one hour of non-overtime, off the clock time
every single week of their employment; (2) using an
“average” hourly rate instead of a
“minimum” wage rate to calculate wages owed under
a minimum wage claim; (3) using an estimate of 2 missed meal
periods per workweek; (4) using an estimate of 2 missed ...