Wednesday, August 29, 2007

N.D. California Determines Defendant Limited Liability Company's Members Not Incorporated in Same State as Citizen Plaintiff; Grants Removal

Per Washington v. Shell Oil Products US, Slip Copy, 2007 WL 2221078 (N.D.Cal . Aug 02, 2007) (NO. C07 2352 MJJ):

Here, Plaintiff has not filed any documents contesting that his Complaint satisfies the amount in controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C 1332(a). Therefore, the only issue before the Court is whether there is diversity of citizenship. The "Doe" defendants are not considered in this analysis because § 1441 provides that "for purposes of removal under this chapter, the citizenship of defendants sued under fictitious names shall be discarded." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) .

Because Equilon is a limited liability company, Equilon's citizenship for diversity purposes is determined by the citizenship of its members. See Johnson v. Columbia Properties Anchorage, LP, 437 F.3d 894, 899 (9th Cir.2006). Equilon's Opposition and Declaration meets its burden of establishing that at time the Complaint was filed and removal was effected, Equilon and its members were not incorporated in California, and that California was not a principal place of business for any of them. Therefore, Equilon's Opposition and Declaration provides a sufficient factual basis to establish that diversity of citizenship as defined and required in 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c) and 28 U.S.C. 1441(b) is satisfied. Equilon's allegation that Plaintiff is a citizen of California has not been contested by Plaintiff. Accordingly, because Plaintiff and Equilon are not citizens of the same state, there is complete diversity under the language of § 1332.

Plaintiff contends that the Court must look to Plaintiff's Complaint in determining citizenship of the parties, and that the Complaint alleges that Equilon is a resident of or doing business in the State of California. Section 1332(c)(1) provides that, "a corporation shall be deemed to be a citizen of any State by which it has been incorporated and of the State where it has its principal place of business." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1). Plaintiff's original state court Complaint alleges that Shell Oil Products U.S. and Does 1 to 20 "were residents or doing business in Contra Costa County." (Notice, Ex. B.) Plaintiff's Complaint does not allege that Equilon, or its members, are incorporated in California, nor that California is a principal place of business for Equilon or its members. Therefore, even taking the facts alleged in the Complaint to be true, Plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to establish that Equilon is a citizen of California or that California is its principal place of business under the language of § 1332. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint does not contradict Equilon's evidence that complete diversity exists.

Plaintiff cites Abrego Abrego v. The Dow Chemical Co., 443 F.3d 676 (9th Cir.2006) for the contention that he should be provided an opportunity to conduct discovery to establish that Defendant's principal place of business is California. Plaintiff's contention is unpersuasive. Abrego is inapposite to the instant case, both because the Abrego court addressed an action removed under the Class Action Fairness Act, and because the court recognizes only that "some courts have suggested that it may be appropriate to allow discovery relevant to jurisdictional amount prior to remanding." Id. at 691 (emphasis added). Jurisdictional amount is not in dispute here. Therefore, Plaintiff has not established a basis for conducting jurisdictional discovery on the issue of Equilon's citizenship.


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