Villa v. United Site Servs. of California, Inc., 2013 WL 2436605 (N.D. Cal. June 4, 2013). 

District Judge Jon S. Tigar, writing for the Northern District of California remanded an action for failure to establish minimal diversity, holding that the relevant inquiry for determining whether minimal diversity exists is the citizenship of the parties, which was not proven by the defendant. 

The plaintiff brought an action alleging failure to provide rest breaks, to pay wages at the time of discharge, and to pay rest period premiums in violation of the California Labor Code.  The plaintiff sought to represent all current and former service technicians and pick-up delivery drivers working within the State of California at any time during the period beginning four years before the filing of the initial complaint, who worked for shifts of greater than three and one-half hours and who were denied rest breaks, who were denied compensation, including premium pay on a daily basis, and whose premium payments were delayed after their employment was terminated. 

The defendant removed the action from Superior Court of Santa Clara County to the District Court under § 1332(d) of CAFA.  The plaintiff moved for remand arguing that removal under was improper because the complaint asserted only state law claims and there was no minimal diversity.  The District Court granted the motion.  

Because the defendant was a citizen of California, the District Court noted that minimal diversity would exist only if at least one putative class member was not a citizen of California.  The defendant submitted two declarations of its attorneys to demonstrate that at least one purported class member was not a citizen of California.  The first declaration stated that during a telephone conversation a former employee informed the lawyer that she moved to Kansas in 2009 and that she was moving to Oklahoma the following week.  Further, the declaration stated that online research showed the employee’s address to be in Kansas and that another online search revealed that another former employee had an address in Texas.  The second declaration stated that the Texas address belonged to a former employee of the defendant. 

The District Court observed that the relevant inquiry for determining whether minimal diversity exists is the citizenship of the parties, and here, the declarations only spoke about the residence of the two purported class members, and not their citizenship.  The District Court opined that allegations pertaining to the state in which a person resides are not conclusive as to whether that person is a citizen of that state, and that the declarations did not establish that the putative class members’ permanent home was in a state other than California, because they contained no information as to whether the putative class members intended to remain in the places where the defendant claimed that they currently resided.  

Thus, the District Court stated that the defendant failed to meet its burden to support its allegations that minimal diversity under §1332(d) existed. 

Further, the District Court noted that courts evaluate a person’s domicile in terms of objective facts, and here, the defendant did not submit any objective facts to establish the citizenship of the two putative class members.  Instead, the defendant submitted two declarations of its own lawyers, which contained factual statements that were not based on personal knowledge. 

Although the defendant was capable of submitting competent proof as to the putative class members’ citizenship, either by submitting declarations of the putative class members themselves, or by submitting other proof of citizenship such as voting registration and voting practices, location of personal and real property, location of brokerage and bank accounts, location of spouse and family, place of employment or business, driver’s license and automobile registration, and payment of taxes, the defendant did not explain why it failed to submit any such proof. 

Thus, because the defendant failed to establish the citizenship of the putative class member, the District Court granted the plaintiff’s motion and remanded the action to state court. — JR