Darneal v. Allied Waste Transp., Inc., No. 2:10-CV-01940, 2010 WL 5292341 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 17, 2010).

A District Court in California declined to remand the action to state court holding that the question of the number of potential class members is a factual inquiry that is required to be resolved through continued litigation.

The plaintiff, Jerry Darneal, brought a putative class action in state court alleging that the defendant, Allied Waste Transportation, failed to provide meal periods, rest periods, and compensation in compliance with California state law.

The defendant removed the case to the District Court asserting jurisdiction pursuant to CAFA, 28 U.S.C. §§1332(d). In the notice of removal, however, the defendant stated that CAFA applied, and that the parties were diverse and met the amount-in controversy requirement under §1332(a).

In a somewhat confusing turn, the defendant sought to remand the case back to the state court because the defendant erroneously calculated the potential class members when it originally removed the case.  In the notice of removal, the defendant stated that the putative class might contain well over 200 members, meeting CAFA’s requirement of at least 100 members.  The defendant, however, now believed the class might be less than 100 members. As such, the defendant stated that it could no longer assert that the plaintiff’s claims met CAFA’s requirements.

The defendant asserted that the cause of the discrepancy involved potential subsidiary employee relationships of purported Allied Waste employees. 

The Court, however, observed that the defendant was silent as to whether Allied Waste owned some, or all, of these subsidiaries, and failed to illuminate the nature of the relationship between the subsidiaries and parent organization. The Court noted that there was also a dispute between the parties as to whether the defendant met the definition of employer under applicable statutes, which would also weigh directly on the ability for the parties, and the Court, to calculate the putative class.

The Court also found that while the defendant argued that federal question jurisdiction no longer existed, the motion made no mention of the issue of diversity jurisdiction, as the defendant pled in the notice of removal. The Court maintained that the question of the number of potential class members is a factual inquiry that is likely to be resolved through continued litigation, and the applicability of CAFA is a core issue of the case.  Even if CAFA does not apply, the parties are still diverse for jurisdictional purposes, the Court observed.  Accordingly, the Court denied the defendant’s motion to remand.

The Court, however, denied the plaintiff’s motion to impose sanctions on the defendant’s counsel for asserting evidence designed to harass the plaintiff, cause delay, and/or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.