Wilfredo Vasquez et al v. SSA Marine, Inc. et al

Filing 32

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS MOTION TO REMAND 18 AND DENYING AS MOOT PETITION TOCOMPEL ARBITRATION 19 , Defendants shall pay Plaintiffs $11,550.00 within thirty days of the date of this Order. The Clerk of the Court shall close the case by Judge Otis D. Wright, II. Case Remanded to Los Angeles County Superior Court, BC623611. MD JS-6. Case Terminated. (lc). Modified on 6/5/2017 .(lc).

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O JS-6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 United States District Court Central District of California 9 10 11 12 WILFREDO VASQUEZ and JULIA VASQUEZ, Plaintiffs, 13 14 15 16 v. SSA TERMINALS LLC; CALIFORNIA MULTIMODAL, LLC; and DOES 1–50, inclusive, 17 Case № 2:16-cv-05680-ODW (AJWx) ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO REMAND [18] AND DENYING AS MOOT PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION [19] Defendants. 18 19 I. INTRODUCTION 20 This action is a wrongful death suit brought by the heirs of a man killed while 21 picking up and dropping off trailers, containers, and loads at the Port of Long Beach, 22 which Defendant SSA Terminals LLC owns and operates. Plaintiffs originally filed 23 the action in the Los Angeles Superior Court on June 10, 2016, and on July 29, 2016, 24 Defendants SSA Terminals LLC and California Multimodal, LLC (collectively, 25 “Defendants”) removed the case to federal court. (Compl., ECF No. 1-1; Not. of 26 Removal, ECF No. 1.) On February 24, 2017, Plaintiffs moved to remand the case. 27 (ECF No. 18.) 28 Defendants’ wrongful removal. (Id.) On February 27, 2017, Defendants moved to Plaintiffs also requested an award of attorneys’ fees based on 1 compel arbitration. 2 notification via telephone that the case had settled, and as a result, the Court ordered 3 Plaintiff to show cause by June 7, 2017, as to why settlement had not been finalized. 4 (ECF No. 29.) Over a month later, on May 16, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Case 5 Status, informing the Court that the matter had in fact not settled, and requesting that 6 the Court rule on the pending Motion to Remand. (ECF No. 30.) For the reasons 7 discussed herein, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ Motion to Remand, AWARDS 8 Plaintiffs attorneys’ fees, and DENIES AS MOOT Defendants’ Petition to Compel 9 Arbitration.1 10 (ECF No. 19.) II. On March 29, 2017, the Court received a FACTUAL BACKGROUND 11 Plaintiffs assert two causes of action: wrongful death under a theory of 12 negligence, and wrongful death under a theory of premises liability. (Compl. ¶¶ 17– 13 40.) Plaintiffs do not directly assert any federal law causes of action. Defendants’ 14 basis for removal is that the action “arises under an Act of Congress regulating 15 commerce within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1337(a), to wit: the United States 16 Shipping Act of 1984.” (Not. of Removal 2.) Defendants state that the United States 17 Shipping Act regulates Marine Terminal Operators engaged in interstate commerce, 18 such as SSA. (Id. at 3.) Therefore, according to Defendants, “[t]he litigation of this 19 action will necessarily involve interpretation of the United States Shipping Act and 20 related federal law applicable to the parties at the time of the incident.” (Id.) 21 III. LEGAL STANDARD 22 Federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction only as authorized by the 23 Constitution and Congress. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1; see also Kokkonen v. 24 Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). A suit filed in state court 25 may be removed to federal court only if the federal court would have had original 26 jurisdiction over the suit. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Federal courts have original 27 28 1 After considering the papers submitted by the parties, the Court deemed the pending motion and petition appropriate for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b); C.D. Cal. L.R. 7-15. 2 1 jurisdiction where an action arises under federal law, id. § 1331, or where each 2 plaintiff’s citizenship is diverse from each defendant’s citizenship and the amount in 3 controversy exceeds $75,000, id. § 1332(a). The removal statute is strictly construed 4 against removal, and “[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to 5 the right of removal in the first instance.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th 6 Cir. 1992). The removing party bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. 7 Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1252 (9th Cir. 2006). 8 IV. DISCUSSION 9 Though Plaintiffs plainly do not allege any federal cause of action, courts have 10 held that federal question jurisdiction still exists where “plaintiff’s right to relief 11 necessarily depends on a resolution of a substantial question of federal law.” 12 Franchise Tax Bd. v. Const. Laborers Vacation Tr., 463 U.S. 1, 27–28 (1983). But 13 while Defendants point out that the U.S. Shipping Act is relevant to this action, its 14 relationship to Plaintiffs’ Complaint does not rise to the level of conferring federal 15 jurisdiction. Defendants attempt to convince the Court that Plaintiffs’ case “arises out 16 of federal law” (Opp’n 5, ECF No. 23), but that characterization is inaccurate. 17 Negligence and premises liability do not on their face raise questions of federal law, 18 and in fact, Plaintiffs dispute that the U.S. Shipping Act even applies to their claims. 19 (See Mot. 4.) Though Defendants would like for the U.S. Shipping Act to control this 20 action, there is no clear indication that it will. Determining whether a federal question 21 exists is not about reading between the lines or considering what federal statutes might 22 come up during the litigation—federal question jurisdiction must exist “on the face of 23 plaintiff’s properly pleaded complaint.” Republican Party of Guam v. Gutierrez, 277 24 F.3d 1086, 1089 (9th Cir. 2002). As such, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ Motion to 25 Remand. 26 The Court also AWARDS Plaintiffs attorneys’ fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 27 § 1447(c) (“An order remanding the case may require payment of just costs and any 28 actual expenses, including attorney fees, incurred as a result of removal.”). 3 1 Defendants’ position in removing the case was wrong as a matter of law, as Ninth 2 Circuit precedent is clear that a federal question must exist on the face of a plaintiff’s 3 complaint in order to remove on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. 4 Republican Party of Guam, 277 F.3d at 1089. When a defendant lacks an “objectively 5 reasonable” basis for removal, as Defendants do here, “fees should be awarded” 6 following remand. See Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 132 (2005). 7 Plaintiffs request $11,550.00, reflecting fifteen hours of work at an hourly rate of $550 8 as a result of the removal. (Teller Decl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 18.) The Court finds this 9 amount reasonable in light of other courts granting similar or higher amounts. See, 10 e.g., Moore v. Kaiser Found. Hosp., Inc., 765 F. Supp. 1464, 1467 (N.D. Cal. 1991) 11 (awarding, in 1991, $9,638.00 on remand); Albion Pac. Prop. Res., LLC v. Seligman, 12 329 F. Supp. 2d 1163, 1164 (N.D. Cal. 2004) (awarding $27,956.36 on remand). 13 V. See CONCLUSION 14 The Court therefore GRANTS Plaintiffs’ Motion (ECF No. 18), and 15 REMANDS this case to the Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. BC 623611. 16 Defendants shall pay Plaintiffs Eleven Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty Dollars 17 ($11,550.00) within thirty days of the date of this Order. The Court also DENIES AS 18 MOOT Defendants’ Petition to Compel Arbitration. (ECF No. 19.) The Clerk of the 19 Court shall close the case. 20 21 IT IS SO ORDERED. 22 23 June 5, 2017 24 25 26 27 ____________________________________ OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 28 4

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