United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO
REMAND (DOCKET NO. 13)
TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE
2006 and 2010, Jose Toro (Plaintiff) worked as a truck driver
for CSX Intermodal Terminals, Inc. (CSXI), CSX
Transportation, Inc. (CSXT), and CSX Corporation (CSX)
(collectively Defendants). Toro was classified as an
independent contractor. He brought this action in state court
to recover wages and business expenses that he alleges he
would have received if he had been classified as an employee.
After a protracted procedural history, Defendants removed the
case to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.
Toro moves to remand the action. For the reasons set forth
below, Toro’s motion (Docket No. 13) is
about July 31, 2006, Toro entered into a contractual
relationship with Defendants to be a truck driver. He worked
exclusively for Defendants between July 31, 2006 and August
21, 2010. He alleges that, during this time, Defendants
exerted employer-like control over him and other similarly
situated drivers, including planning the drivers’
schedules, assuming complete responsibility for and
possession of the drivers’ equipment, controlling how
the drivers were paid, and mandating policies that the
drivers were required to follow.
of 2012, Toro brought suit against CSXI in state district
court, asserting that CSXI had misclassified him and other
similarly situated drivers as independent contractors, in
violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, §§ 148, 148B,
150. Toro claimed that CSXI’s actions caused him and
the other drivers to lose substantial income and incur
unlawful and unnecessary legal, personal, and business
expenses. In his cover sheet filed pursuant to Mass. Gen.
Laws ch. 218, § 19A(a), Toro estimated that his damages
were $10, 000.
removed the case to this Court on September 12, 2012, on the
bases of diversity jurisdiction and federal preemption under
ERISA. On February 14, 2013, this Court remanded the action
to the district court, finding that CSXI had not proffered
any evidence that Toro’s recovery would significantly
exceed $30, 000-$10, 000 in calculated damages plus the
statutory multiplier and attorney’s fees. Additionally,
this Court determined that Toro’s complaint did not
implicate ERISA because he did not allege that he was seeking
to recover benefits under any ERISA plan.
February 22, 2013, CSXI filed a motion to dismiss in the
state district court, arguing that a truck driver was likely
to earn more than $25, 000 in a sixteen-month period,
bringing the case above the jurisdictional limit for that
court. The district court denied the motion on May 1, 2013.
On May 14, 2013, CSXI filed a motion for reconsideration, or
in the alternative, for report to the Appellate Division and
a stay of the proceedings. The court denied this motion as
September 6, 2013, CSXI filed a Petition for Relief with the
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). A single justice
of the SJC dismissed Toro’s complaint without prejudice
to be re-filed in Superior Court. The single justice held
that, pursuant to Somers v. Converged Access,
Inc., 911 N.E.2d 739, 743 (Mass. 2009), Toro’s
claimed lost wages should be taken into account in
determining the amount in controversy. Toro v. CSX
Intermodal Terminals, Inc., No. SJ-2013-0352 at *4
(Mass. May 16, 2014). The justice explained:
Although Toro may have received, on an individual job basis
or even over some period of time, more than he would have in
terms of ‘wages’ if classified as an employee,
Somers is clear that what an employer pays to a
misclassified independent contractor cannot be used to offset
damages to which that individual, properly classified as an
employee, would otherwise be entitled.
Id. at *5. Thus, the “hypothetical wages Toro
would have received for the period of time in question here
appropriately should be taken into account in determining his
likely damages if he were to prevail.” Id. at
*4. Toro claimed that his $10, 000 in estimated damages
represented unpaid benefits; and thus, the single justice
concluded that any unpaid wages would be in addition to that
amount, which meant that his damages were likely to exceed
$25, 000 in total. Id. at *5-*6.
re-filed his complaint in Superior Court on May 29, 2014. In
his cover sheet, he listed his estimated damages as $50, 000.
On July 9, 2015, Toro filed an amended complaint, in which he
added CSX and CSXT as defendants. Defendants answered the
amended complaint on behalf of CSXI while filing a motion to
dismiss on behalf of CSX and CSXT. On December 30, 2015, the
court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss. Defendants
filed a petition for interlocutory relief with the
Massachusetts Appeals Court, seeking to prevent Toro from
joining CSX and CSXT. The Appeals Court denied the petition.
January of 2016, Defendants requested that Toro make an
initial settlement demand, including attorney’s fees
that had accrued thus far in the litigation. Toro acquiesced
on February 3, 2016, demanding $325, 000: $75, 000 for lost
wages, expenses, and loss of benefits, and $250, 000 in
attorney’s fees. On March 2, 2016, Defendants removed
the case to this Court on the basis of diversity
is properly removed to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(a) only if the action could originally have been
brought in federal court. See Syngenta Crop Prot., Inc.
v. Henson, 537 U.S. 28, 33 (2002). Generally,
“defendants may remove to the appropriate federal
district court ‘any civil action brought in a State
court of which the district courts of the United States have
original jurisdiction.’” City of Chicago v.
Int’l Coalition of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 163
(1997) (quoting § 1441(a)). In a case based on diversity
jurisdiction, the parties must be diverse in citizenship and
the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a)(1). The amount in controversy includes