Candelaria Arita v. Rite Aid Corporation et al

Filing 13

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS MOTION TO REMAND 10 by Judge Dean D. Pregerson. cc: order, docket, remand letter to Los Angeles Superior Court, No. BC 507818. MD JS-6. Case Terminated. (Attachments: # 1 remand letter) . (lc). Modified on 1/31/2014 (lc).

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1 2 O 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 CANDELARIA ARITA, an individual, 12 Plaintiff, 13 v. 14 15 RITE AID CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation, 16 Defendant. ___________________________ ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No. CV 13-05497 DDP (MANx) ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND [Dkt. No. 10] 17 18 Presently before the court is Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand 19 (“Motion”). 20 grants the Motion and adopts the following Order. 21 I. Background1 22 Having considered the parties’ submissions, the court Defendant hired Plaintiff Candelaria Arita as a store clerk 23 and cashier in February 2007. 24 Defendant created a hostile work environment for Plaintiff, a 25 Hispanic female, because of Plaintiff’s race and disability. 26 (Compl. ¶ 8). 27 Plaintiff’s supervisor frequently criticized Plaintiff, berated her (Compl. ¶ 7). As of October 2010, Plaintiff has two amputated fingers. (Compl. ¶ 15). 28 1 The facts herein are stated as alleged in Plaintiff’s Complaint. 1 in front of customers, and intentionally assigned her to perform 2 duties that caused her pain and discomfort as a result of her 3 disability. 4 Plaintiff’s accent, complained loudly about the number of Latino 5 employees, and repeatedly threatened to fire Plaintiff. 6 12). (Compl. ¶¶ 10, 15). A security guard also ridiculed (Compl. ¶ 7 Plaintiff further alleges that she complained to Human 8 Resources about the mistreatment and unfounded warnings she 9 received at work, but that Human Resources did not take any 10 remedial measures. 11 terminated from her employment, ostensibly because she charged a 12 customer for a single scoop of ice cream instead of a double scoop. 13 (Compl. ¶ 18). 14 (Compl. ¶ 17). On June 17, 2011, Plaintiff was On May 3, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in Los Angeles 15 County Superior Court against Defendant. 16 causes of action against Defendant: 17 (1) race/national/origin/ancestry discrimination in violation of 18 the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov’t Code § 19 12940; (2) failure to prevent discrimination in violation of FEHA; 20 (3) wrongful termination in violation of FEHA; (4) declaratory 21 relief; (5) injunctive relief; and (6) wrongful termination in 22 violation of public policy. 23 The Complaint alleges six On July 30, 2013, Defendant removed to this court on the basis 24 of diversity jurisdiction, pursuant 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441. 25 Plaintiff now moves to remand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) for 26 lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Defendant has failed to 27 establish that the amount in controversy exceeds the $75,000 28 statutory minimum. 2 1 II. Legal Standard 2 Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. 3 v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). 4 defendant may remove to federal court “any civil action brought in 5 a State court of which the district courts of the United States 6 have original jurisdiction . . . .” 7 District courts have original jurisdiction over “all civil actions 8 where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of 9 $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between citizens 10 11 of different States.” Kokkonen A 28. U.S.C. § 1441(a). 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Generally, a defendant may remove any civil action from state 12 court to a district court that has original jurisdiction. 13 U.S.C. § 1441(a). 14 time before to final judgment, it appears that the district court 15 lacks subject matter jurisdiction. 16 removal statute is strictly construed against removal jurisdiction, 17 and federal jurisdiction must be rejected if any doubt exists as to 18 the right of removal. 19 Cir. 1992). 20 asserting diversity jurisdiction bears the burden of proving that 21 original jurisdiction exists. 22 265 F.3d 853, 857-58 (9th Cir. 2001). 23 state court complaint is unclear or ambiguous on the requisite 24 amount in controversy, “the removing defendant bears the burden of 25 establishing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount 26 in controversy exceeds [the statutory amount].” 27 Monumental Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 1996). 28 A district court must remand a case if, at any 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th The party removing the case to federal court and See Kanter v. Warner-Lambert Co., 28 3 In cases where a plaintiff’s Sanchez v. 1 2 III. Discussion Plaintiff moves to remand for lack of subject matter 3 jurisdiction, asserting that Defendant failed to show that 4 Plaintiff’s Complaint meets the amount in controversy requirement. 5 Both parties agree that the complaint does not specify a particular 6 amount of damages and is unclear on the amount in controversy. 7 Both parties acknowledge that the Defendant, as the removing party, 8 has the burden of proof of establishing that the amount in 9 controversy exceeds the statutory minimum of $75,000. 10 11 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). The amount in controversy is an estimate of the total amount 12 in dispute, not a prospective assessment of defendant’s liability. 13 See Lewis v. Verizon Commc’n, Inc., 627 F.3d 395, 400 (9th Cir. 14 2010). 15 interest and costs and therefore includes attorney’s fees”, 16 compensatory damages for general or special damages, like “back 17 payment of health benefits and taxes”, and punitive damages. 18 Guglielmino v. McKee Foods Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 700-01 (9th Cir. 19 2007). 20 The amount in controversy requirement excludes “only See In this case, the parties dispute the amount of Plaintiff’s 21 lost wages. 22 that Plaintiff seeks at least $43,120.00 in back pay. 23 Removal at 5). 24 worked a 40-hour week. 25 that she worked no more than thirty six hours in a week, and 26 sometimes worked as few as twenty five hours per week. 27 Declaration of Jennifer A. Lipski ¶ 2). Defendant estimates, based on a 40-hour work week, (Notice of It does not appear, however, that Plaintiff ever Rather, Plaintiff’s pay records suggest 28 4 (Mot. at 7; Thus, as Defendant appears 1 to acknowledge, the back wages sought by Defendant may total under 2 $30,000. 3 Defendant contends that emotional and punitive damages and 4 attorney’s fees will suffice to bridge the gap between Plaintiff’s 5 relatively modest claim for lost wages and the $75,000 6 jurisdictional minimum. 7 emotional distress claims “could lead to substantial damages.” 8 (Opp. at 4). 9 emotional distress claims resulted in damage awards in excess of 10 $75,000, Defendant has not adequately explained how those claims 11 and fact patterns are similar to this case. 12 justification the court “will not speculate as to the damages 13 potentially embodied in the plaintiffs’ vague request for emotional 14 distress.” 15 *5 (N.D.Cal. 1997). 16 Defendant first argues that Plaintiff’s While Defendant gives examples of cases where In the absence of any Miller v. Michigan Millers Ins. Co., 1997 WL 136242, at “When the amount in controversy depends largely on alleged 17 punitive damages, the court will scrutinize a claim more closely” 18 to be certain jurisdiction exists. 19 Ins. Co., 2009 WL 322835, at *1 (C.D. Cal. 2009) (internal 20 quotation and citation omitted). 21 asserting diversity jurisdiction may refer to other jury verdicts 22 to bolster its claims regarding punitive damages. 23 Astro-Med Inc., 1999 WL 820198 at *4 (N.D. Cal. 1999). 24 verdicts, however, must involve facts analogous to the case at 25 hand. 26 damages, Defendant cites two cases in which juries awarded millions 27 of dollars in punitive damages. Id. Lange v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Defendant is correct that a party Faulkner v. Those Here, as with its argument regarding emotional distress (Opp. at 5-6). 28 5 Again, however, 1 Defendant fails to explain how the facts of those cases, beyond the 2 basic nature of the claims, are analogous to this case. 3 Lastly, attorney’s fees, too, may be included in the amount in 4 controversy if recoverable by statute or contract. 5 Scandinavia, 142 F.3d 1150, 1155-56 (9th Cir. 1998). 6 that “reasonable attorney’s fees” may be awarded to the prevailing 7 party. 8 no attempt to estimate reasonable attorney’s fees in this case. 9 Instead, Defendant states, without any support, that “even a Cal. Gov’t Code. § 12965(b). Galt G/S v. JSS FEHA states Defendant, however, has made 10 conservative estimate of attorney’s fees” in conjunction with other 11 relief sought by Plaintiff will place the total amount in 12 controversy over $75,000. 13 (Opp. at 7). Defendant’s speculative and conclusory assertions and 14 unexplained references to other cases are insufficient to satisfy 15 its burden to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that 16 the amount in controversy here exceeds $75,000 and that this court 17 has subject matter jurisdiction over this matter. 18 IV. Conclusion 19 20 For the above reasons, Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand is GRANTED. 21 22 23 IT IS SO ORDERED. 24 25 26 Dated: January 31, 2014 DEAN D. PREGERSON United States District Judge 27 28 cc:order, docket, remand letter to Los Angeles Superior Court, No. BC 507818 6

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