Munoz et al v. State of California et al

Filing 15

ORDER GRANTING 11 Motion to Remand, signed by District Judge Kirk E. Sherriff on 07/08/2024. REMANDING CASE to Tulare County Superior Court. Certified copy of remand order sent to other court. CASE CLOSED. (Maldonado, C)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 10 BRYAN MUNOZ, et al., 11 Plaintiffs, 12 13 v. No. 1:24-cv-00540-KES-SAB ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND (Doc. 11) STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et al., 14 Defendants. 15 Plaintiffs Bryan Munoz, Maritsa Molina, Jerry Munoz-Molina, Gerardo Munoz, and 16 17 Angelene Munoz-Molina move to remand this action to Tulare County Superior Court, arguing 18 that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Motion to Remand (“Motion”), Doc. 11. The 19 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Services have been 20 dismissed from this action and the remaining defendants have not filed an opposition to the 21 motion to remand. Doc. 13; see Docket. This matter is suitable for resolution without a hearing 22 pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). For the reasons explained below, the motion to remand this action 23 to Tulare County Superior Court is granted. 24 25 I. BACKGROUND Plaintiff Bryan Munoz alleges he was injured when he fell on a pile of hot ashes. Notice 26 of Removal, Exhibit 1 (“Complaint”), Doc. 1-1 ¶ 21. His family, plaintiffs Maritsa Munoz, Jerry 27 Munoz-Molina, Gerardo Munoz, and Angelene Munoz-Molina allegedly suffered emotional 28 distress as a result of witnessing the incident. Id. at ¶ 22. 1 1 Plaintiffs filed an action in Tulare County Superior Court for (1) Dangerous Condition of 2 Public Property pursuant to Cal. Government Code §§ 815.2, 815.6, 820(a), 830, 835 et seq., 840 3 et seq.; (2) Failure to Inspect or Negligent Inspection of Property pursuant to Cal. Government 4 Code § 818.6; (3) Liability for Injuries Caused for Employee Within Scope of Employment 5 pursuant to Cal. Government Code § 815.2; (4) Liability for Injuries Caused by Independent 6 Contractors pursuant to Cal. Government Code § 815.4; (5) Negligence; and (6) Negligent 7 Infliction of Emotional Distress. See Complaint. Plaintiffs named as defendants the State of 8 California, County of Tulare, U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Agriculture – 9 Forest Service, and Does 1-60. Id. 10 On May 7, 2024, the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers and U.S. Department of 11 Agriculture – Forest Service (“Federal Defendants”) filed a notice of removal to this court 12 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1). On June 4, 2024, plaintiffs and the Federal Defendants 13 entered into a stipulation to dismiss the Federal Defendants without prejudice pursuant to Federal 14 Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 41(a)(1). Stipulation to Dismiss Defendants, Doc. 12. The 15 Federal Defendants were dismissed on June 5, 2024. Doc. 13. Concurrently with filing the 16 stipulation to dismiss the Federal Defendants, plaintiffs moved to remand this action to state court 17 on the basis that the court lacked jurisdiction following the dismissal of the Federal Defendants. 18 See Motion, Doc. 11 at 4. 19 20 II. LEGAL STANDARD “‘Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,’ possessing ‘only that power authorized 21 by Constitution and statute.’” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013) (quoting Kokkonen v. 22 Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)); Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah 23 Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005). “If at any time prior to judgment it appears that the district 24 court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); 25 Demartini v. Demartini, 964 F.3d 813, 818 (9th Cir. 2020). “Section 1447(c) remands are 26 mandatory because once it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction the court 27 must remand.” Demartini, 964 F.3d at 819; Bruns v. NCUA, 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) 28 (“Remand under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) “is mandatory, not discretionary.”). 2 1 2 III. DISCUSSION “The federal officer removal statute permits removal of a state-court action against an 3 ‘officer (or any person acting under that officer) of the United States or of any agency thereof, in 4 an official or individual capacity, for or relating to any act under color of such office.’” Fidelitad, 5 Inc. v. Insitu, Inc., 904 F.3d 1095, 1098–99 (9th Cir. 2018) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1)). To 6 invoke jurisdiction under the federal officer removal statute, the defendant must show that: (1) “it 7 is a ‘person’ within the meaning of the statute, (2) a causal nexus exists between plaintiffs’ claims 8 and the actions [the defendant] took pursuant to a federal officer's direction, and (3) it has a 9 ‘colorable’ federal defense to plaintiffs’ claims.” Leite v. Crane Co., 749 F.3d 1117, 1120 (9th 10 11 Cir. 2014). This matter was removed to this court solely based on the federal officer removal statute. 12 See Notice of Removal, Doc. 1. Plaintiffs indicate that they are filing their Motion because of the 13 Federal Defendants’ position that federal agencies cannot be sued in state court and defendant 14 State of California’s position that it may not be sued in federal court. Motion, Doc. 11 at 4. 15 Plaintiffs’ and the Federal Defendants stipulated to the dismissal of the Federal Defendants from 16 this action. None of the remaining named defendants (the State of California and County of 17 Tulare) qualify as persons within the meaning of the federal officer statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442, and 18 the parties have not identified any other basis for federal jurisdiction. Following the dismissal of 19 the Federal Defendants, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action. 20 Accordingly, it is HEREBY ORDERED THAT: 21 1. Plaintiff’s motion to remand (Doc. 11) is granted; 22 2. The matter is remanded to Tulare County Superior Court; and 23 3. The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case. 24 25 26 27 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: July 8, 2024 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 28 3

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