Rodriguez v. Goodrich Corporation et al

Filing 18

ORDER signed by Judge John A. Mendez on 7/31/2014 GRANTING 9 Motion to Remand; REMANDING this action to the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Solano; DENYING as moot 12 Motion to Supplement or Amend; VACATING the Motion Hearing on 12 Motion to Supplement or Amend. Copy of remand order sent to other court. CASE CLOSED. (Michel, G)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 10 11 RAPHAEL RODRIGUEZ, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 15 16 17 No. 2:14-cv-01026 JAM AC ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO REMAND v. GOODRICH CORPORATION, a corporation; HAMILTON SUNDSTRAND CORPORATION, a corporation; UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION, a corporation; and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, 18 Defendants. 19 This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Raphael 20 21 Rodriguez’s (“Plaintiff”) Motion to Remand (Doc. #9). Defendants 22 Goodrich Corporation, Hamilton Sundstrand Corporation, and United 23 Technologies Corporation (“Defendants”) oppose the motion (Doc. 24 #10) and Plaintiff filed a reply (Doc. #13). 25 reasons, Plaintiff’s motion is GRANTED. 1 For the following 26 27 28 1 This motion was determined to be suitable for decision without oral argument. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). The hearing was scheduled for July 9, 2014. 1 1 2 I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Plaintiff was employed as a non-exempt hourly employee by 3 Defendants. 4 and a putative class of similarly situated employees, that 5 Defendants improperly calculated overtime rates, and thus failed 6 to comply with various provisions of the California Labor Code. 7 FAC ¶ 13. 8 to include “awards, bonuses or other incentive compensation” in 9 his “regular rate of pay,” for purposes of calculating the proper 10 11 FAC ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges, on behalf of himself Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed overtime premium rate of pay. FAC ¶¶ 13-14. On March 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed the First Amended 12 Complaint (“FAC”) in Solano County Superior Court. 13 alleges the following causes of action: (1) Failure to Pay 14 Overtime Wages at Proper Rate When Paying Additional Remuneration 15 in violation of Labor Code §§ 510 and 1194; (2) Failure to 16 Properly Itemize Paystubs, in violation of Labor Code §§ 226(a) 17 and 226(e); (3) Failure to Pay Wages Due at Time of Termination, 18 in violation of Labor Code §§ 201, 202, and 203; (4) Unfair 19 Business Practices, in violation of Business and Professions Code 20 § 17200; and (5) Civil Penalties Pursuant to the Private 21 Attorneys General Act of 2004, Labor Code § 2698. 22 The FAC On April 25, 2014, Defendants removed the matter to this 23 Court, alleging original federal jurisdiction pursuant to 28 24 U.S.C. § 1332(a), based on diversity of citizenship. 25 Removal at 1. 26 amount to $7,436.80, Defendants allege that the amount in 27 controversy requirement is satisfied because “the attorneys’ fees 28 here alone would exceed $75,000.” Notice of Although Plaintiff’s total individual damages only 2 Notice of Removal at 12. 1 II. OPINION 2 A. Legal Standard 3 Generally, a state civil action is removable to federal 4 court only if it might have been brought originally in federal 5 court. 6 construe[s] the removal statute against removal jurisdiction.” 7 Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing 8 Boggs v. Lewis, 863 F.2d 662, 663 (9th Cir. 1988); Takeda v. 9 Northwestern National Life Insurance Co., 765 F.2d 815, 818 (9th See 28 U.S.C. § 1441. The Ninth Circuit “strictly 10 Cir. 1985)). Thus, “[f]ederal jurisdiction must be rejected if 11 there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first 12 instance.” 13 F.2d 1062, 1064 (9th Cir. 1979)). 14 against removal jurisdiction means that the defendant always has 15 the burden of establishing that removal is proper.” 16 Nishimoto v. Federman-Bachrach & Associates, 903 F.2d 709, 712 n. 17 3 (9th Cir. 1990); Emrich v. Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 18 1195 (9th Cir. 1988)). 19 defendant must show that complete diversity exists among the 20 parties and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. 21 U.S.C. § 1332. Id. (citing Libhart v. Santa Monica Dairy Co., 592 “The ‘strong presumption’ Id. (citing To establish diversity jurisdiction, the 22 B. 23 28 Discussion Plaintiff argues that removal was improper because 24 Defendants improperly calculated attorneys’ fees for purposes of 25 Plaintiff’s individual amount in controversy. 26 Plaintiff maintains that, in a putative class action, potential 27 attorneys’ fees “cannot be attributed solely to the named 28 plaintiffs for purposes of the amount in controversy.” 3 Mot. at 5. Mot. at 5 1 (citing Kanter v. Warner-Lambert Co., 265 F.3d 853, 858 (9th Cir. 2 2001)). 3 Ninth Circuit’s decisions in Kanter and Gibson v. Chrysler Corp., 4 261 F.3d 927, 942 (9th Cir. 2001). 5 Plaintiff argues that this issue has been settled by the Mot. at 5. Defendants oppose this argument on several grounds. First, 6 Defendants argue that Kanter and Gibson do not apply to the 7 present case, as Plaintiff seeks recovery under a statute that 8 authorizes an award of attorneys’ fees to any individual who 9 brings a successful claim. Opp. at 8. Second, Defendants argue 10 that they have not improperly “aggregated” the attorneys’ fees 11 for all members of the putative class, but rather “Defendants’ 12 calculation of attorneys’ fees is premised solely on the single 13 named Plaintiff’s individual claims[.]” 14 Defendants argue that Kanter and Gibson do not apply because the 15 class has not yet been certified. Opp. at 9. Finally, Opp. at 11. 16 The Ninth Circuit has held that, “if a named plaintiff in a 17 diversity class action has a claim with an amount in controversy 18 in excess of $75,000, 28 U.S.C. § 1367 confers supplemental 19 jurisdiction over claims of unnamed class members irrespective of 20 the amount in controversy in those claims[.]” 21 at 858. 22 individual amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. 23 Kanter, 265 F.3d Therefore, the entire action is removable if Plaintiff’s Generally, “where an underlying statute authorizes an award 24 of attorneys’ fees, . . . such fees may be included in the amount 25 in controversy.” 26 1156 (9th Cir. 1998). 27 attorneys’ fees “cannot be allocated solely to [named] plaintiffs 28 for purposes of amount in controversy,” unless the statute in Galt G/S v. JSS Scandinavia, 142 F.3d 1150, However, in a putative class action, 4 1 question authorizes an award of attorneys’ fees “solely to the 2 named plaintiffs in a class action.” 3 In Gibson, the Ninth Circuit noted that a California statute 4 which authorized an award of attorneys’ fees “to a successful 5 party” did not satisfy that condition, whereas a Louisiana 6 statute, which awarded attorneys’ fees to “the representative 7 parties” in a class action, did satisfy that condition. 8 261 F.3d at 942. 9 “potential attorneys’ fees [could not] be attributed solely to Gibson, 261 F.3d at 942. Gibson, Soon thereafter, the Ninth Circuit held that 10 the named plaintiffs for purposes of amount in controversy,” 11 where the statute in question authorized an award of attorneys’ 12 fees “to a prevailing plaintiff.” 13 both cases, the Ninth Circuit reasoned that, in a putative class 14 action, attributing attorneys’ fees solely to a named plaintiff 15 for purposes of amount in controversy would be improper, because 16 the plaintiff would not ultimately be entitled to the entirety of 17 that award upon a favorable disposition of the case. 18 F.3d at 942; Kanter, 265 F.3d at 858. 19 Kanter, 265 F.3d at 858. In Gibson, 261 In the present case, Plaintiff would be entitled to 20 attorneys’ fees upon a favorable disposition of the matter. See 21 Cal. Labor Code § 1194(a); Cal Labor Code § 226(e); Cal. Labor 22 Code § 2699(g). 23 Labor Code do not authorize awards of attorneys’ fees “solely to 24 the named plaintiffs in a class action,” but rather to “an 25 employee” or “any employee” who prevails on his or her claim. 26 Gibson, 261 F.3d at 942. 27 attorneys’ fees “cannot be allocated solely to [Plaintiff] for 28 purposes of amount in controversy,” but rather must be divided by However, the relevant sections of the California Therefore, under Gibson and Kanter, 5 1 the number of putative class members. 2 see Davenport v. Wendy's Co., 2013 WL 6859009 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 24, 3 2013) (holding that, under CLC § 1194(a), § 226(e), and 4 § 2699(g), the “estimate of potential attorneys’ fees must be 5 divided by the number of class members,” for purposes of amount 6 in controversy). 7 calculation, their allegation that Plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees 8 will amount to “$77,500 - $220,000” is conclusory, and 9 insufficient to establish that the amount in controversy exceeds 10 11 $75,000. Gibson, 261 F.3d at 942; As Defendants have not attempted to make such a Notice of Removal at 16. Defendants’ argument that Gibson and Kanter do not apply 12 because Plaintiff “is seeking fees under a statute that allows 13 for individual recovery [of attorneys’ fees], absent any public 14 benefit and absent any class-wide recovery,” is unpersuasive. 15 Opp. at 8. 16 distinction between a statute that permits the recovery of 17 attorneys’ fees by each member of a successful class, and a 18 statute that permits the named plaintiff in a successful class 19 action to recover the entirety of attorneys’ fees on behalf of 20 the entire class. 21 in Gibson, it is immaterial that the relevant sections of the 22 California Labor Code permit recovery of attorneys’ fees by an 23 individual plaintiff suing only on his own behalf. 24 fact that the relevant sections of the California Labor Code do 25 not award attorneys’ fees solely to the named plaintiff in a 26 successful class action places this case squarely within the 27 holding of Gibson. 28 relevant statute in Kanter - § 1780 of the California Civil Code This argument misreads Gibson, which emphasizes the Gibson, 261 F.3d at 942. Gibson, 261 F.3d at 942. 6 Under the reasoning Rather, the Moreover, the 1 – provides for an award of attorneys’ fees to successful 2 individual plaintiffs, even in the absence of a class action 3 lawsuit. 4 attempt to distinguish the present case from Gibson and Kanter is 5 unavailing. 6 Cal. Civ. Code § 1780(e). Therefore, Defendants’ Defendants’ argument that they “did not aggregate attorneys’ 7 fees recoverable for the putative class” is similarly 8 unpersuasive. 9 calculation of attorneys’ fees is based solely on those fees Opp. at 9. Although Defendants claim that their 10 applicable to Plaintiff as an individual, the calculation itself 11 belies this contention. 12 is substantially based on legal work that, in a class action, 13 would be performed on behalf of the entire class. 14 Removal at 15. 15 preparation of motions in limine, motions to bifurcate, witness 16 list, exhibit list, jury instructions, special verdict questions, 17 witness testimony outlines, an opening statement, and a closing 18 argument,” would be conducted on behalf of the entire putative 19 class, not merely Plaintiff as an individual. 20 at 15. 21 be entitled to these fees if he were to pursue the action as an 22 individual, it is abundantly clear from the FAC that Plaintiff 23 will be pursuing the matter as a class action. 24 Under Gibson and Kanter, the Court need not close its eyes to 25 Plaintiff’s ultimate class action aspirations: it would defy 26 common sense to treat the matter as an individual action for 27 purposes of removability, with the specter of a class action 28 looming in the immediate future. Defendants’ estimate of attorneys’ fees Notice of For example, “pretrial activities” such as “the Notice of Removal Although Defendants appear to argue that Plaintiff would 7 FAC ¶¶ 23-25. 1 Defendants’ final attempt to distinguish the present case 2 from Gibson and Kanter on the grounds that the class has not yet 3 been certified, also fails to convince this Court that 4 Plaintiff’s request to remand this case should be denied. 5 at 11. 6 that, in putative class actions, motions to remand are generally 7 heard prior to the Rule 23 hearing on class certification. 8 28 U.S.C. 1447(c), a party seeking remand must file its motion 9 within 30 days of the matter’s removal to federal court. Opp. As an initial matter, this argument ignores the reality Under Due to 10 this compressed timeline, classes are rarely (if ever) certified 11 prior to a court’s consideration of a motion to remand. 12 in Gibson, the Ninth Circuit indicated that the putative class 13 had not yet been certified. 14 the ultimate amount of attorneys’ fees “if removal to federal 15 court were upheld and class certification were granted”) 16 (emphasis added). 17 with equal force whether the motion to remand is brought before 18 or after the class is certified. 19 Indeed, Gibson, 261 F.3d at 941 (predicting Accordingly, the rationale of Gibson applies The amount of Plaintiff’s individual damages in controversy 20 is $7,436.80. 21 to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that 22 Plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees would exceed $67,563.20. 23 Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand is GRANTED. The Court 24 need not and does not reach Plaintiff’s remaining arguments in 25 support of his motion herein. 26 Notice of Removal at 12. Defendants have failed In their opposition, Defendants seek leave to amend their 27 notice of removal "to include jurisdiction under the [Class 28 Action Fairness Act], 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d).” 8 Opp. at 18. 1 Defendants did not file their Motion to Amend (Doc. #12) as a 2 cross-motion to Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand, and Defendants’ 3 Motion to Amend is not set for hearing until August 20, 2014. 4 The Court declines to address this issue prematurely, especially 5 in light of the fact that it has not yet been fully briefed by 6 both parties. 7 III. ORDER 8 For the reasons set forth above, the Court GRANTS 9 Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand. Consistent with this Order, 10 Defendants’ Motion to Amend is now moot, and the August 20, 2014 11 hearing date is vacated: 12 IT IS SO ORDERED. 13 Dated: July 31, 2014 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 9

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