Antonio Copado Villalobos v. SF Markets, LLC et al

Filing 20

ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND [Dkt. No. 12 Superior Court of California County of Riverside by Judge John W. Holcomb: For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby GRANTS Villalobos's Motion. This case is remanded to the Riverside County Superior Court. IT IS SO ORDERED. (See document for further details) (yl) Modified on 11/19/2020 (yl).

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1 2 JS-6 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 ANTONIO COPADO VILLALOBOS, an individual, Plaintiff v. SPROUTS FARMERS MARKET, INC., a Corporation; MARIO SALDIVAR, an individual; and DOES 1 to 100, Defendants. Case No. 5:20-cv-01905-JWH-SPx ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO REMAND [Dkt. No. 12] 1 I. INTRODUCTION 2 On August 11, 2020, Plaintiff Antonio Copado Villalobos filed his 3 Complaint in Riverside County Superior Court, in which he alleges that he was 4 injured after tripping over a pallet at a Sprouts market.1 On September 15, 2020, 5 Defendants SF Markets, LLC and Mario Saldivar removed the case to federal 6 court, citing diversity jurisdiction.2 On October 14, 2020, Villalobos filed a 7 motion to remand this case to state court.3 The Court finds this matter 8 appropriate for resolution without a hearing. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; L.R. 7-15. 9 For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS the Motion. II. LEGAL STANDARD 10 11 “Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil 12 action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States 13 have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, 14 to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing 15 the place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A district court 16 has original jurisdiction over civil actions where the parties are completely 17 diverse and the “matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, 18 exclusive of interest and costs.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). “[A] defendant’s notice of removal need include only a plausible 19 20 allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold.” 21 Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 574 U.S. 81, 89 (2014). 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 Notice of Removal, Ex. A (the “Complaint”) [Dkt. No. 3-1]. 2 Notice of Removal [Dkt. No. 3]. 3 Pl.’s Mot. to Remand (the “Motion”) [Dkt. No. 12]. Defendants point out that Villalobos did not comply with the conference of counsel requirement of L.R. 7-3. See Opp’n to Motion to Remand (the “Opposition”) [Dkt. No. 17] 1:22-28. The parties must comply with the Local Rules, and the Court admonishes Villalobos’s counsel for ignoring this obligation. Nevertheless, the Court has an independent responsibility to ensure that it possesses subject matter jurisdiction over its cases, so, despite Villalobos’s counsel’s transgression, the Court addresses the merits of Villalobos’s Motion. -2- 1 Evidence establishing the amount in controversy is necessary only “when the 2 plaintiff contests, or the court questions, the defendant’s allegation.” See id. 3 “Where the complaint does not demand a dollar amount, the removing 4 defendant bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that the 5 amount in controversy exceeds” the jurisdictional amount. Singer v. State Farm 6 Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d 373, 376 (9th Cir. 1997). III. ANALYSIS 7 8 A. Diversity Jurisdiction 9 Defendants claim that although Mario Saldivar is a resident of California, 10 “his residency should be disregarded on the basis that he is a ‘sham’ defendant 11 for the purposes of diversity in that no possible cause of action has been stated 12 against that party.”4 Plaintiff disputes that Mr. Saldivar is a “sham” 13 defendant.5 The Court does not reach this issue, however, because 14 Defendants—the removing parties—have failed to establish that the amount in 15 controversy requirement is satisfied. Villalobos pleads in a form complaint that Defendants negligently “left a 16 17 pallet laying near the entrance/exit” of a Sprouts market and that he tripped 18 over the pallet, fell, and sustained serious injuries.6 As a result of the fall, 19 Villalobos alleges that he “has been, and will continue to be, prevented from 20 working in his usual occupation, and he has suffered, and will continue to suffer, 21 a loss of earnings and earning capacity.”7 Defendants’ sole argument for why the amount in controversy 22 23 requirement is met is as follows: 24 25 26 27 28 4 5 6 7 Notice of Removal ¶ 6. See Motion 4:7-8:1. Complaint 1. Id. -3- 1 On September 8, 2020, Defendants requested that Plaintiff confirm 2 that the alleged case value was greater than $75,000.00. Plaintiff 3 failed to respond to multiple requests, other than to question 4 diversity jurisdiction between the parties. As such, it is presumed 5 that Plaintiff alleges the case value to exceed $75,000.00.8 6 This explanation is insufficient. It is not apparent from the face of the 7 Complaint that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. See, e.g., Corbelle v. 8 Sanyo Elec. Trading Co., No. C-03-1509 EMC, 2003 WL 22682464, at *3 9 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 4, 2003) (complaint contained allegations of serious and 10 permanent injuries, medical expenses, and lost wages, but “these allegations 11 alone” were not sufficient to “establish that it is more likely than not that the 12 amount in controversy exceeds $75,000”). 13 Defendants argue that Villalobos presents no evidence with his Motion.9 14 But it is Defendants’ burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that 15 the amount in controversy exceeds the $75,000 jurisdictional threshold. Id. 16 (“When the complaint does not demand a specific dollar amount, the removing 17 defendant bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that 18 the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.”). The purported failure of 19 Villalobos’s attorney to confirm the amount in controversy does not establish by 20 a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds 21 $75,000, and Defendants cite no authority in support of their position. See also 22 Rindels v. Tyco Integrated Sec., LLC, No. CV 14-6536 RSWL CWx, 2015 WL 23 469013, at *4 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 4, 2015) (“fact that Plaintiff refuses to stipulate to 24 damages below the threshold is not a compelling reasons to establish 25 jurisdiction”); Herlan v. Casentric, LLC, No. 15CV913-MMA (RBB), 2015 WL 26 27 8 28 9 Notice of Removal at ¶ 7. Opposition 7:4-9. -4- 1 11658716, at *4 (S.D. Cal. July 10, 2015) (refusal to stipulate to amount in 2 controversy not sufficient to overcome the strong presumption against removal); 3 DuFoe v. Bank of Am. Corp., No. CV 10-6269 ODW (RCx), 2010 WL 11601828, 4 at *3 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 28, 2010) (same). 5 Accordingly, Defendants have failed to meet their burden of establishing 6 that the amount in controversy requirement is met. 7 IV. CONCLUSION 8 For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby GRANTS Villalobos’s 9 10 Motion. This case is remanded to the Riverside County Superior Court. IT IS SO ORDERED. 11 12 13 Dated: November 18, 2020 John W. Holcomb UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -5-

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