United States District Court, E.D. Washington
JAN M. RENFROE, Plaintiff,
QUALITY LOAN SERVICE CORP. OF WASHINGTON; BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., successor by merger to BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, f/k/a Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP; CITIBANK, N.A., as trustee of NRZ Pass-Through Trust VI; MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC.; and BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON, as trustee on behalf of the Certificateholders of the CWHEQ Inc., CWHEQ, Revolving Home Equity Loan Trust Series 2006-C, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
SALVADOR MENDOZA, JR. United States District Judge.
the Court, without oral argument, is Plaintiff Jan M.
Renfroe's Motion to Remand to Washington State Court, ECF
No. 11. Through this motion, Renfroe seeks an order from this
Court remanding the case back to the Superior Court for the
State of Washington in and for the County of Okanogan.
Id. at 1. Defendants oppose the motion. ECF Nos. 17,
21 and 22. Having reviewed the pleadings and the file in this
matter, the Court is fully informed and denies the motion.
Jan M. Renfroe initiated this lawsuit in the Okanogan County
Superior Court on April 3, 2017. ECF No. 1-1. She named
Quality Loan Services Corp. of Washington, Bank of America,
Citibank, and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, as
defendants, and the Bank of New York Mellon as nominal
defendant (collectively “Defendants”). ECF No.
1-1 at 1. She seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary
relief arising out of a dispute over a loan she acquired that
was secured by her home. ECF No. 1-1 at 3-11. Renfroe asserts
only state law claims, under the Washington State Deed of
Trust Act and Consumer Protection Act, and for quiet title.
ECF No. 1-1 at 6-10.
this action was in state court, Renfroe and Quality Loan
Service entered into a stipulated agreement on May 2, 2017,
in which Quality Loan Service was to be considered a nominal
defendant, subject to certain conditions. ECF No. 1-2. On or
about June 2, 2017, Renfroe received a Notice of Continuance
of Trustee's Sale of her home indicating the Quality Loan
Service rescheduled the sale of her home to July 28, 2017.
ECF No. 12-1. About two weeks later, Renfroe's attorney
sought, and Judge Christopher E. Culp of Okanogan Superior
Court granted, a temporary restraining order enjoining
Quality Loan Service from proceeding with the Trustee's
Sale. ECF No. 13-1.
removed the case from Okanogan Superior Court to this Court
on June 1, 2017. ECF No. 1.
APPLICABLE LEGAL PRINCIPLES
of a civil action from state to federal court is governed by
28 U.S.C. § 1446. Cases removed on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction must present parties whose citizenship
is completely diverse and contest an amount greater than $75,
000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Given the strong presumption
against removal, defendants bear the burden of establishing
by a preponderance of the evidence that removal is proper.
Adrain v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No.
2:16-cv-00142-SAB, 2016 WL 4059231, at *1 (E.D. Wash. July
27, 2016) (citing Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564,
566 (9th Cir. 1992)).
diversity jurisdiction purposes when removing a case from
state to federal court, whether the parties are diverse to
each other “is determined (and must exist) as of the
time the complaint is filed and removal is effected.”
Strotek Corp. v. Air Transp. Ass'n of Am., et
al, 300 F.3d 1129, 1131 (9th Cir. 2002) (citations
omitted). Once jurisdiction attaches, a party cannot destroy
diversity by changing its citizenship. Id. at 1132
federal courts disregard formal or nominal parties'
citizenship when considering citizenship for subject matter
jurisdiction purposes. Batson v. Deutsche Bank Tr.
Ams., No. 2:15-cv-00193, 2015 WL 5316869, at *1 (E.D.
Wash. Sept. 11, 2015). Courts have defined a nominal
defendant as “one ‘who holds the subject matter
of the litigation in a subordinate or possessory capacity and
to which there is no dispute.'” Id.
(citing SEC v. Colello, 139 F.3d 674, 676 (9th Cir.
1998)). The Batson court noted that “[m]ost
courts consider trustees in foreclosure suits nominal
parties, unless plaintiffs have alleged direct claims against
them.” Id. (citations omitted).
meeting the amount in controversy requirement, when the
amount of damages a plaintiff seeks is unclear from the
complaint, the defendant bears the burden of proving facts
supporting the jurisdictional amount. Gaus, 980 F.2d
at 566-67; Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d
1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004). To discharge its burden, a
defendant must “provide evidence establishing that it
is more likely than not that the amount in controversy
exceeds [$75, 000].” Valdez, 372 F.3d at 1117
(citations and quotations omitted). The amount in controversy
must be established as of the time of removal. Grieff v.
Brigandi Coin. Co., No. C14-214, 2014 WL 2608209, *1
(W.D. Wash. June 11, 2014). Defendants may rely on claims of
general and specific damages, punitive damages, and
attorney's fees to satisfy the amount in controversy
requirement. Colvin v. Conagra Foods, Inc.,
No. C07-1376, 2007 WL 3306746, *2 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 5, 2007).
In determining whether the jurisdictional amount is met, a
reviewing court evaluates the complaint and “may
consider any evidence submitted by the parties including
affidavits or declarations, or other [relevant]
summary-judgment-type evidence.” Coleman v.
American Commerce Ins. Co., No. C16-5096, 2016 WL
2586636, *2 (W.D. Wash. May 5, 2016) (citations and
quotations omitted). Defendants cannot rely on
“speculation and conjecture” or
“unreasonable assumptions” to meet their burden.
outset, the Court notes that Renfroe's argument regarding
the fact that she tailored her claims for state court is
unclear. ECF No. 11 at 3-4. Renfroe seems to argue that
because she is the plaintiff and master of her claims and
complaint, and she does not raise any federal law questions,
she may avoid federal jurisdiction by relying exclusively on
state law. Id. To the extent she asserts that she
can avoid her case's removal from state court into
federal court by relying exclusively on state law claims,
that argument is unavailing. First, the Court notes that the
authorities she cites in support of this proposition, ECF No.
11 at 3-4, are inapposite here. Those cases dealt with
federal question jurisdiction. Here, Defendants removed on
the basis of diversity jurisdiction. ECF No. 1 at 1.