United States District Court, W.D. Washington
C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to
remand and for attorney fees (Dkt. No. 13). Having thoroughly
considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record,
the Court hereby GRANTS the remand motion and DENIES the
motion for attorney fees for the reasons explained herein.
Alisha Lingvevicius filed this lawsuit against her employer,
Universal Health Services, Inc. in King County Superior
Court. (Dkt. No. 1 at 10.) Plaintiff is a Washington citizen.
(Dkt. No. 1 at 13.) Defendant is Delaware corporation,
headquarted in Pennsylvania. (Dkt. No. 2 at 4.) Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant violated the Washington Family Leave
Act, Wash. Rev. Code § 49.78.010, et seq., and
the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Wash. Rev. Code
§ 49.60.010, et seq. Defendant removed the case
to federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.) It premised removal on
federal question and diversity jurisdiction. (Id. at
2.) Plaintiff challenges those claims and moves to remand.
(Dkt. No. 13.)
defendant is entitled to remove a lawsuit if the action could
have originally been brought in federal district court.
Grable & Sons Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng'g
& Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312 (2005); 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a). The removing party bears the burden of establishing
that federal subject matter jurisdiction existed at the time
of removal. Prize Frize, Inc. v. Matrix, Inc., 167
F.3d 1261, 1265 (9th Cir. 1999); Valdez v. Allstate Ins.
Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004). “The
removal statute is strictly construed against removal
jurisdiction.” Prize Frize, 167 F.3d.
at 1265. If the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction at
removal, remand is mandatory. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
Federal Question Jurisdiction
asserts that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction
because Plaintiff raises a federal question by referencing
federal law. (Dkt. No. 17 at 4.)
question jurisdiction exists only where the well-pleaded
complaint clearly shows that federal law creates the cause of
action or that vindication of a right under state law
“necessarily depends on a substantial question of
federal law.” Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251,
258 (2013); Easton v. Crossland Mortg. Corp., 114
F.3d 979, 982 (9th Cir. 1997). When a plaintiff invokes
federal law alongside a state-law claim, the court determines
whether jurisdiction is appropriate. Merrell Dow Pharms.,
Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 813-14 (1986). That
determination rests not merely on the “literal
language” of the complaint, but on a practical analysis
of the plaintiff's claims and the form a
“well-pleaded complaint” would take.
Easton, 114 F.3d at 982. Federal question
jurisdiction does not arise when a plaintiff's claims
sound solely in state law. Caterpillar v. Williams,
482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). Nor can a mechanical reference to a
federal law guarantee jurisdiction. See Easton, 114
F.3d at 982.
claims do not “arise under” federal law.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff's complaint
makes four claims under Washington law, each relating solely
to statutory torts. (Dkt. No. 1 at 18-22.) Her allegations
neither cite to nor depend on a federal statute.
(Id.) While Plaintiff's prayer for relief
references unnamed “federal laws” twice, that
generic recitation does not “necessarily raise”
an issue of her rights under federal law. (Id. at
22-23); see Merrell Dow Pharms., 478 U.S. at 808.
Nor does it show her rights under federal law are
“actually disputed.” Merrell Dow
Pharms., 478 U.S. at 808. While Plaintiff's prayer
seeks punitive damages available only under federal law, her
attorney has admitted this was an error relating to his use
of “boilerplate” language. (Dkt. No. 13 at 3.)
That admission and the complaint's reliance on state law
in its substantive allegations, make it clear that reference
to relief under federal law are an error. See
Easton, 114 F.3d at 982 (relying on attorney's
post-filing actions to clarify nature of complaint's
claims). Courts do not rest jurisdictional decisions on
isolated statements in a prayer for relief when those
statements were clearly made in error. See id.;
Butterworth v. Am. Eagle Outfitters, Inc., No.
C11-01203-LJO-DLB, slip op. at 3 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 14, 2011).
The Court accordingly finds that subject matter jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 is lacking.
alternatively contends that the Court has subject matter
jurisdiction through diversity. (Dkt. No. 17 at 6.) The
parties do not contest their citizenship is diverse; rather,
they dispute whether Defendant has shown that the amount in