Ramisetty v. The Western Union Company

Northern District of California, cand-4:2015-cv-03171

Order by Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu denying {{9}} Motion to Remand without prejudice. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint due by 10/19/2015. Plaintiff's may file a renewed Motion to Remand by 10/19/2015.(dmrlc3, COURT STAFF)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 SREE RAMISETTY, 7 Case No. 15-cv-03171-DMR Plaintiff, 8 v. ORDER DENYING MOTION TO 9 REMAND WITHOUT PREJUDICE THE WESTERN UNION COMPANY, et 10 al., Re: Dkt. No. 9 11 Defendants. 12 Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Plaintiff Sree Ramisetty filed this employment action in San Francisco Superior Court 14 against Defendants The Western Union Company ("TWUC") and her former supervisor, Frederick 15 Crosby. Defendants removed the action on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, claiming that there 16 is complete diversity between the parties because Crosby was fraudulently joined in the case. 17 Notice of Removal, [Docket No. 1] ¶¶19-20. Ramisetty now moves to remand the action. The 18 court held a hearing on October 8, 2015. As set forth at the hearing and below, Plaintiff's motion 19 is denied without prejudice. 20 Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant may remove to federal court any matter that 21 originally could have been filed in federal court. Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 22 (1987). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and possess subject matter jurisdiction in 23 civil cases based only on federal question or diversity jurisdiction. Id.; see 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 24 1332. To invoke diversity jurisdiction in an action involving United States citizens, the complaint 25 must allege that "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of 26 interest and costs, and is between ... citizens of different States...." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). 27 Here, Defendants contend, and Ramisetty does not dispute, that the case meets the amount 28 in controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction. The parties do dispute whether the action is 1 between citizens of different states. The Supreme Court has interpreted section 1332(a) to require 2 "complete diversity of citizenship"—that is, each of the plaintiffs must be a citizen of a different 3 state than each of the defendants. Caterpillar, 519 U.S. at 68; see Morris v. Princess Cruises, Inc., 4 236 F.3d 1061, 1067 (9th Cir. 2001). 5 "Although an action may be removed to federal court only where there is complete 6 diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a), 1441(b), one exception to the requirement for 7 complete diversity is where a non-diverse defendant has been 'fraudulently joined.'" Hunter v. 8 Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1043 (9th Cir. 2009). In this circuit, the joinder of a non- 9 diverse defendant is deemed fraudulent when a plaintiff's failure to state a cause of action against 10 the resident defendant is obvious according to the applicable state law. Hunter, 582 F.3d at 1042- 11 43. In such cases, the court may ignore the presence of the non-diverse defendant for purposes of 12 determining diversity. Morris, 236 F.3d at 1067. There is a strong presumption against fraudulent Northern District of California United States District Court 13 joinder, which means that the court resolves all ambiguity in favor of remand to state court. 14 Hunter, 582 F.3d at 1042. The removing defendants bear the "heavy burden of proving that the 15 joinder of the in-state party was improper." Allen v. Boeing Co., 784 F.3d 625, 634 (9th Cir. 16 2015). The defendants must prove fraudulent joinder by "clear and convincing evidence." 17 Hamilton Materials, Inc. v. Dow Chem. Corp., 494 F.3d 1203, 1206 (9th Cir. 2007). 18 Defendants argue that removal is proper because Ramisetty's failure to state a cause of 19 action against Crosby in his individual capacity is obvious according to applicable state law. 20 Ramisetty alleges nine causes of action: 1) wrongful termination in violation of public policy 21 (Lab. Code § 98.6, 232.5, 1102.5); 2) unlawful retaliation (Gov't Code § 12940 et seq.); 3) failure 22 to investigate and prevent discrimination (Gov't Code § 12940 et seq.); 4) fraud and deceit (Civ. 23 Code §§ 1571-1574 and 1709-1710); 5) failure to pay PTO upon termination (Lab. Code §§ 201- 24 203, 227.3); 6) disability discrimination (Gov't Code § 12940 et seq.); 7) failure to provide 25 reasonable accommodation (Gov't Code § 12940 et seq.); 8) failure to engage in the interactive 26 process (Gov't Code § 12940 et seq.); and 9) unfair business practices (Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 27 17200 et seq.). 28 As an initial matter, Ramisetty's complaint does not specify which claims she is bringing 2 1 against Crosby. At the hearing, Plaintiff conceded that the only claims she could potentially bring 2 against Crosby in his individual capacity would be for harassment or fraud. Plaintiff further 3 conceded that her current complaint does not include a cause of action against Crosby for 4 harassment pursuant to Gov't Code § 12940(j). Although the complaint does contain a cause of 5 action for fraud, it does not include specific allegations about the alleged fraud, and does not 6 mention Crosby. Plaintiff's counsel was unable to clearly articulate the contours of a harassment 7 or fraud claim against Crosby at the hearing, but believed he could do so if given an opportunity to 8 consult the case file and amend the complaint. Defendants did not object to providing Plaintiff 9 with an opportunity to amend, and also agreed that the propriety of remand could be appropriately 10 reanalyzed based on the amended pleading. 11 The court thus granted Plaintiff leave to amend her complaint within 10 days of the hearing 12 (i.e., by October 19, 2015). The court also ordered that if Plaintiff wishes to file a renewed motion Northern District of California United States District Court 13 to remand based on the amended complaint, she must do so by October 19, 2015. 14 Plaintiff's motion to remand [Docket No. 9.] is denied without prejudice. Plaintiff's 15 request for sanctions is denied. 16 17 IT IS SO ORDERED. 18 Dated: October 16, 2015 ______________________________________ 19 Donna M. Ryu 20 United States Magistrate Judge 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3