United States District Court, D. Arizona
NIKKI M. SPAULDING, a married woman, Plaintiff,
HONEYWELL AEROSPACE, et al., Defendants.
Russel Holland United States District Judge
moves to remand this case. This motion is opposed. Oral argument was
not requested and is not deemed necessary.
Nikki M. Spaulding was an employee of defendant Honeywell
Aerospace, a division of Honeywell International, and a
participant in a short-term disability plan (STD Plan)
sponsored by Honeywell. The STD Plan is a payroll practice
exempt from ERISA. The STD Plan was administered by defendant
Life Insurance Company of North America (LINA). The STD Plan
provides that the plan administrator is the Vice President of
Human Resources for Compensation and Benefits.
applied for STD benefits on May 20, 2015. LINA denied her
claim for STD benefits on July 16, 2015 on the grounds that
she did not meet the STD Plan's definition of
disability. Plaintiff appealed that denial and on
August 24, 2015, LINA upheld its benefits
10, 2016, plaintiff commenced this action in state court.
Plaintiff's complaint names Honeywell Aerospace, LINA,
and Steve Kelly as defendants. Plaintiff alleges that Kelly
was the plan administrator of the STD Plan. Plaintiff asserts
five claims in her complaint: 1) unpaid wages pursuant to
A.R.S. § 23-355, 2) tortious interference with contract,
3) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair
dealing, 4) intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
5) unpaid wages pursuant to Delaware law.
plaintiff served and filed her complaint in state court, the
parties engaged in a series of emails regarding Kelly's
status as a party. Plaintiff ultimately agreed to dismiss
Kelly because he was not the plan administrator but the
parties could not agree on whether plaintiff had a valid
claim against the actual plan administrator given that the
STD Plan is not an ERISA plan.
before plaintiff could dismiss Kelly, defendants removed this
action from state court on the basis of diversity
jurisdiction. Although Kelly was alleged to be a resident of
Arizona in plaintiff's complaint,  defendants
asserted in their notice of removal that Kelly was
now moves to remand this matter to state court.
defendant generally may remove any action filed in state
court if a federal district court would have had original
jurisdiction.” Gonzales v. CarMax Auto Superstores,
LLC, 840 F.3d 644, 2016 WL 6122776, at *3 (9th Cir.
2016). The court has original jurisdiction of cases
“where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or
value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is
between ... citizens of different States[.]” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a)(1). There is a strong presumption against
removal,  Gaus v. Miles, 980 F.2d 564,
566 (9th Cir. 1992), and “removal statutes should be
construed narrowly in favor of remand to protect the
jurisdiction of state courts.” Harris v. Bankers
Life and Cas. Co., 425 F.3d 689, 698 (9th Cir. 2005).
argues that removal was improper because the amount in
controversy does not exceed $75, 000. In the Ninth Circuit,
the amount in controversy is defined “as the
‘amount at stake in the underlying
litigation[.]'” Gonzales, 2016 WL 6122776,
at *3 (quoting Theis Research, Inc. v. Brown &
Bain, 400 F.3d 659, 662 (9th Cir. 2005)). “This
amount includes, inter alia, damages (compensatory,
punitive, or otherwise) and ... attorney's fees awarded
under fee shifting statutes.” Id. “Where
it is not facially evident from the complaint that more than
$75, 000 is in controversy, the removing party must prove, by
a preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in
controversy meets the jurisdictional threshold.”
Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., 319 F.3d
1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003). The removing party meets its
burden by “establishing that it is ‘more likely
than not' that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,
000.” Del Real v. Healthsouth Corp., 171
F.Supp.2d 1041, 1043 (D. Ariz. 2001) (quoting Sanchez v.
Monumental Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir.
1996)). But, “[w]here doubt regarding the right to
removal exists, a case should be remanded to state
court.” Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090.
court considers ‘the amount in controversy at the time
of removal.'” Patel v. Nike Retail Services,
Inc., 58 F.Supp.3d 1032, 1043 (N.D. Cal. 2014) (quoting
Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d
373, 377 (9th Cir. 1997)). “The general rule is that
the amount in controversy represents ‘an estimate of
the total amount in dispute, not a prospective assessment of
defendant's liability.'” Kuxhausen v. BMW
Financial Services NA LLC, 707 F.3d 1136, 1140 n.2 (9th
Cir. 2013) (quoting Lewis v. Verizon Commc'ns,
Inc., 627 F.3d 395, 400 (9th Cir. 2010)). The court
generally “assume[s] that ...