Mohammadali Babazadehnamini v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. et al

Filing 20

ORDER DENYING Motion to Remand (Dkt. 13) by Judge Virginia A. Phillips: For the reasons stated above, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs Motion to Remand this action to the Los Angeles Superior Court. IT IS SO ORDERED. (See document for further details) (yl)

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1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 2 3 4 5 Mohammadali Babazadehnamini, Case No. 2:21-cv-06703-VAP-(ADSx) 6 Plaintiff, 7 v. 8 Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., United States District Court Central District of California 9 Order DENYING Motion to Remand (Dkt. 13) Defendant. 10 11 12 13 Before the Court is a Motion to Remand (“Motion”) filed by Plaintiff 14 Mohammadali Babazadehnamini (“Plaintiff”) on September 17, 2021. (Dkt. 15 13). Defendant Toyota Motor Sales (“Defendant”) filed its Opposition on 16 October 28, 2021. (Dkt. 14). The Court finds this matter appropriate for 17 resolution without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 7-15. After 18 considering all papers filed in support of, and in opposition to, the Motion, 19 the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion. 20 21 22 I. BACKGROUND Plaintiff filed this action in the Los Angeles Superior Court on July 14, 23 2021, asserting claims for breach of written warranty under the federal 24 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (“MMWA”), breach of implied warranty under 25 the MMWA, and two violations of California’s Song-Beverly Consumer 26 Warranty Act (“Song-Beverly Act”). (Dkt. 1-1, Ex. A). Plaintiff’s claims arise 1 1 out of his purchase of an allegedly defective 2020 Toyota Tundra (the 2 “Vehicle”). (Dkt.1-1, Ex. A). Defendant removed the action to this Court on 3 August 18, 2021, based on federal question jurisdiction arising under the 4 MMWA. (Dkt. 1, ¶ 6); 15 U.S.C. § 2301. Plaintiff then filed this Motion, 5 challenging Defendant’s allegations as to the existence of jurisdiction. (See 6 Dkt. 13). 7 II. 8 United States District Court Central District of California 9 LEGAL STANDARD Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a civil action may be removed from state 10 to federal court if the action is one over which the federal courts could 11 exercise their original jurisdiction. A district court has federal question 12 jurisdiction over actions “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of 13 the United States.” 25 U.S.C. § 1333. 14 15 “The burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is on the party seeking 16 removal, and the removal statute is strictly construed against removal 17 jurisdiction.” Prize Frize, Inc. v. Matrix (U.S.) Inc., 167 F.3d 1261, 1265 (9th 18 Cir. 1999), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Abrego 19 Abrego v. The Dow Chem. Co., 443 F.3d 676, 681 (9th Cir. 2006). There is 20 a strong presumption against removal jurisdiction, and federal jurisdiction 21 “must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first 22 instance.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citation 23 omitted). A defendant “always has the burden of establishing that removal 24 is proper.” Id. “If at any time before final judgment it appears that the 25 district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” 26 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). 2 1 III. 2 DISCUSSION 3 Although Plaintiff contends that Defendant fails to show that the 4 amount in controversy meets the $75,000 threshold necessary for diversity 5 jurisdiction, (Dkt. 13-2), the Court notes Defendant based its Notice of 6 Removal on federal question jurisdiction under MMWA. (Dkt. 1-2). The 7 Court thus considers the amount of controversy under the MMWA. 8 United States District Court Central District of California 9 10 A. Amount in Controversy The MMWA creates federal question jurisdiction only when the 11 amount in controversy exceeds “$50,000 (exclusive of interests and costs 12 computed on the bases of all claims to be determined in the suit.)” 15 13 U.S.C. § 2310(d)(3)(B); see also Milicevic v. Fletcher Jones Imports, Ltd., 14 402 F.3d 912, 917 (9th Cir. 2005) (“[T]he Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act 15 creates a federal private cause of action for a warrantor’s failure to comply 16 with the terms of a written warranty . . . .”); Grable & Sons Metal Prods., Inc. 17 v. Darue Eng’g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312 (2005) (“Th[e] provision for 18 federal-question jurisdiction is invoked by and large by plaintiffs pleading a 19 cause of action created by federal law . . . .”). A defendant who removes an 20 action to federal court bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of 21 the evidence that the amount in controversy meets the jurisdictional 22 threshold. See Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 23 2004); Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th 24 Cir. 2003) (per curiam). 25 26 3 1 Here, although Plaintiff argues Defendant fails to show by a 2 preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds both 3 $75,000 and $50,000 (Dkt. 13-2), Defendant met its burden of showing that 4 the amount in controversy is at least $50,000. 5 6 7 1. Actual Damages As the MMWA is silent on the question of remedies, courts “turn[ ] to the applicable state law to determine what remedies are available under the 9 United States District Court Central District of California 8 Act, which of necessity informs the potential amount in controversy.” See 10 Romo v. FFG Ins. Co., 397 F. Supp. 2d 1237, 1239 (C.D. Cal. 2005); see 11 also Reniger v. Hydundai Motor America, 122 F. Supp. 3d 888, 906 (N.D. 12 Cal. 2015); Hastings v. Ford Motor Company, 495 F. Supp. 3d 919, 924 13 (S.D. Cal. 2020). 14 15 Here, Plaintiff asserts two claims under California’s Song-Beverly Act, 16 (Dkt. 1-1), and thus the Court calculates the jurisdictional threshold under 17 these claims. See Romo, 397 F. Supp. 2d at 1239. 18 19 Actual damages under the Song-Beverly Act are the “amount equal to 20 the actual price paid or payable by the buyer,” less the reduction in value 21 “directly attributable to use by the buyer.” Cal. Civ. Code § 1793.2(d)(2)(B)- 22 (C). The reduction is based on the number of miles the buyer has driven 23 prior to the first attempted repair (often called the “use offset”). Id. To 24 determine the amount directly attributable to the buyer’s use of the vehicle, 25 the manufacturer multiplies the price of the vehicle the buyer paid or will pay 26 by a fraction, the denominator of which is 120,000, and the numerator the 4 1 number of miles the buyer drove the car before the first relevant repair. Id. 2 This calculation provides the actual damages that Plaintiff suffered. 3 4 The lease agreement for the Vehicle here lists the total amount payable as $21,889.08. (Dkt. 1-1, Ex. A) The lease agreement further 6 indicates Plaintiff paid a $3,000 lump sum as a down payment for the 7 Vehicle. (Id.) Accordingly, the total price for the Vehicle is $24,889.08. The 8 Court adopts Defendant’s mileage offset of $974.61. (Dkt. 1-1) (“$974.61 9 United States District Court Central District of California 5 calculated as follows: (5,354-11)/120,000 x $21,998.08”). The Court thus 10 estimates the amount of restitution available to Plaintiff under the Song- 11 Beverly Act to be $24,889.08 minus the mileage offset of $974.61, or 12 $23,914.47. 13 14 2. Civil Penalty 15 If a court determines that a defendant’s failure to comply with the 16 terms of the Act is willful, a successful plaintiff is entitled to recover civil 17 penalties of up to twice the amount of the actual damages. Cal. Civ. Code 18 §§ 1794(c). 19 20 Here, Plaintiff’s third claim alleges that Defendant “willfully violated the 21 provisions of [the Song-Beverly Act] by knowing of its obligations to refund 22 or replace Plaintiff’s vehicle but failing to do so.” (Dkt. 1-1). Plaintiff also 23 asked for judgment in the form of a “civil penalty pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code 24 § 1974(c).” (Id.). As the amount of actual damages available under the 25 Song-Beverly Act to Plaintiff is $23,914.47, the maximum available civil 26 5 1 penalty is twice that amount, or $47,828.94. Accordingly, the sum of the 2 restitution and civil penalty amounts in controversy is $71,743.41. 3 4 The Court therefore finds that the $50,000 jurisdictional requirement under the MMWA is satisfied. See Carlos v. Jaguar Land Rover North 6 America, L.L.C., No. 19-1318 GW (FFMx), 2019 WL 2068465, at *3 (C.D. 7 Cal. May 10, 2019) (denying a plaintiff’s motion to remand when the plaintiff 8 brought claims under the MMWA, and the plaintiff sought a “refund of the full 9 United States District Court Central District of California 5 purchase price of the vehicle” and a civil penalty under California Civil Code 10 § 1794(c)); Park v. Jaguar Land Rover N. Am., LLC, No. 20-0242 BAS 11 (MSBx), 2020 WL 3567275, at *4 (S.D. Cal. July 1, 2020) (“Plaintiff’s own 12 allegations support the conclusion that the maximum amount of civil 13 penalties is properly included in the amount in controversy determination”). 14 IV. 15 16 17 CONCLUSION For the reasons stated above, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand this action to the Los Angeles Superior Court. 18 19 IT IS SO ORDERED. 20 21 Dated: 11/17/21 Virginia A. Phillips United States District Judge 22 23 24 25 26 6

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