Fairfield Somerfield LLC v. Love

Filing 3

ORDER REMANDING CASE to the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento, signed by District Judge Troy L. Nunley on 12/28/16. Defendant's 2 motion for in forma pauperis status is DENIED. Certified copy of remand order sent to other court. CASE CLOSED (Kastilahn, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 FAIRFIELD SOMERFIELD LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, Plaintiff, 13 14 15 ORDER v. LEVI LOVE, and DOES 1 to 10, inclusive, Defendants. 16 17 No. 2:16-cv-02973-TLN-DB This matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendant Levi Love’s (“Defendant”) Notice 18 of Removal. (ECF No. 1.) Defendant also filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF 19 No. 2.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court remands the action to the Superior Court of 20 California, County of Sacramento, due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. 21 I. 22 FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY On October 17, 2016, Plaintiff Fairfield Somerfield (“Plaintiff”) filed an unlawful detainer 23 action in the Sacramento County Superior Court of California. (Not. of Removal, ECF No. 1.) 24 The complaint alleged that on October 11, 2016, Defendant was given a 3-day notice to pay rent 25 or quit the premises. (ECF No. 1 at 10.) Defendant did not comply with the order and the total 26 damages sought were $1, 236.72 as of October 11, 2016. (ECF No. 1-1 at 3.) On December 21, 27 2016, Defendant filed a Notice of Removal in the United States District Court, Eastern District of 28 1 1 California. (ECF No. 1.) In the Notice of Removal, Defendant alleges the Court has jurisdiction 2 because the parties are diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. (ECF No. 1 at 2.) 3 Defendant checked federal question as the means for jurisdiction on his Civil Cover Sheet (ECF 4 No. 1-1), but does not identify what federal law arises on the face of the complaint in his notice of 5 removal. (See ECF No. 1.) 6 II. 7 28 U.S.C. § 1441 permits the removal to federal court of any civil action over which “the 8 district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “Removal is 9 proper only if the court could have exercised jurisdiction over the action had it originally been 10 STANDARD OF LAW filed in federal court.” Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). 11 Courts “strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction,” and “the 12 defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 13 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (per curiam). Furthermore, “[i]f the district court at any time 14 determines that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action, it must remedy the 15 improvident grant of removal by remanding the action to state court.” California ex rel. Lockyer 16 v. Dynegy, Inc., 375 F.3d 831, 838, as amended, 387 F.3d 966 (9th Cir. 2004), cert. denied 544 17 U.S. 974 (2005). 18 The “presence or absence of federal question jurisdiction is governed by the ‘well-pleaded 19 complaint rule,’ which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is 20 presented on the face of the plaintiff’s properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 386. 21 Removal cannot be based on a defense, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third party claim raising a 22 federal question, whether filed in state court or federal court. See Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 23 U.S. 49 (2009); Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042–43 (9th Cir. 2009). 24 III. ANALYSIS 25 Defendant states in the notice of removal that jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 26 1332. (ECF No. 1 at 2.) Defendant claims that complete diversity exists and that the amount in 27 controversy is not identified on the face of the complaint, but that a fair reading of the complaint 28 demonstrates that the amount exceeds $75,000. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Furthermore, Defendant 2 1 invoked federal question as the means upon which original jurisdiction exists. (ECF No. 1-1.) 2 After reviewing the Notice of Removal, the Court concludes that Defendant does not present a 3 viable argument to support federal jurisdiction on either basis. 4 Subject matter jurisdiction exists where a federal question arises on the face of the 5 complaint or if there is diversity jurisdiction. Here, there is no federal cause of action that would 6 supply this court with original jurisdiction. See Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 386 (“federal [question] 7 jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff’s properly 8 pleaded complaint”). Plaintiff does not bring any claims within the complaint that involve a 9 federal question. Defendant checked the federal question box on his civil cover sheet, but makes 10 no argument in his notice of removal under what law federal question jurisdiction exists. 11 Defendant alleges in a cross complaint violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. 12 (ECF No. 1 at 2.) However, Defendant’s assertion is more akin to a defense and a defense that 13 rests on federal question cannot form the basis for federal question jurisdiction. See Id. at 393 (“it 14 is now settled law that a case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal 15 defense”). Therefore, Defendant is not entitled to removal on the grounds of federal question 16 jurisdiction. 17 Furthermore, Defendants cannot satisfy the requirements for diversity jurisdiction under 18 section 1332. Section 1332 states that “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all 19 civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of 20 interest and costs, and is between—(1) citizens of different States.” Defendants do not assert that 21 the parties are citizens of different states. 22 Moreover, the burden of proving the amount in controversy depends on what the plaintiff 23 has pleaded. Lowdermilk v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n, 479 F.3d 994, 998, 1000 (9th Cir. 2007). 24 When the complaint alleges damages less than the jurisdictional requirement, the party seeking 25 removal must prove the amount in controversy with legal certainty. Id.; Rynearson v. Motricity, 26 Inc., 601 F. Supp. 2d 1238, 1240 (W.D. Wash. 2009). Defendant contends that “Plaintiff does not 27 quantify the amount of damages they seek to recover in this case.” (ECF No. 1 at 2.) However, 28 this is simply not true. Plaintiff’s complaint alleges damages calculated at $40.56 per day. At the 3 1 time of filing on October 17, 2016, this resulted in damages amounting to $1,236.72. (ECF No. 2 1-1 at 3.) Defendant does not prove with legal certainty that the damages as of the time of 3 removal would exceed $75,000. Instead, Defendant states in the notice of removal without proof 4 that “the amount in controversy more likely than not exceeds $75,000 based on Plaintiff’s claims, 5 their alleged injuries and the recovery sought.” (ECF No. 1 at 2.) In sum, Defendant fails to meet 6 the burden of showing that the amount in controversy is met. 7 Defendant has failed to establish his burden of showing that jurisdiction before this Court 8 is proper based on diversity jurisdiction or federal question jurisdiction. Therefore, it is 9 appropriate to remand this case, sua sponte, for lack of federal jurisdiction. See United Investors 10 Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 967 (9th Cir. 2004) (“the district court ha[s] a 11 duty to establish subject matter jurisdiction over the removed action sua sponte, whether the 12 parties raised the issue or not.”). 13 IV. 14 For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby REMANDS this action to the Superior Court 15 of California, County of Sacramento. Additionally, the Court has reviewed Defendant’s motion 16 for in forma pauperis status (ECF No. 2). Defendant’s motion is blank except for a signature and 17 check marks on boxes describing excess income, and thus Defendant has not provided any 18 information that would permit this Court to make a finding on Defendant’s ability to pay. As 19 such, Defendant’s motion for in forma pauperis status is DENIED. 20 CONCLUSION IT IS SO ORDERED. 21 22 Dated: December 28, 2016 23 24 Troy L. Nunley United States District Judge 25 26 27 28 4

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