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Waithaka v. Amazon.Com, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 5, 2019

BERNARD WAITHAKA, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
AMAZON.COM, INC. and AMAZON LOGISTICS, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND (DOCKET NO. 13)

          TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE

         Bernard Waithaka (“Plaintiff”), commenced this class action lawsuit against Amazon.com Inc., and Amazon Logistics Inc. (“Defendants”) alleging improper classification as independent contractors and violations of state wage laws. On September 7, 2018, Defendants removed the action to this Court for the second time. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this motion to remand the action back to state court. (Docket No. 13). For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion is denied.

         Background

         On August 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in Worcester Superior Court against Defendants alleging that Defendants misclassified class members as independent contractors in violation of the Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law, Mass. Gen. L. c. 149 § 150, (Count I), that Defendants required class members to bear business expenses necessary to perform their work in violation of the Wage Act, Mass. Gen. L. c. 149 § 148, (Count II), and that Defendants failed to ensure that class members were paid at least minimum wage in violation of the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Law, Mass. Gen. L. c. 151 §§ 1, 7, (Count III).

         On October 29, 2017, Defendants removed to this Court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (“CAFA”) alleging that the proposed class members exceeded 100 individuals, and the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million in the aggregate. Alternatively, Defendants argued that 28 U.S.C. § 1332 provided another basis for removal since Plaintiff and Defendants are diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. On November 1, 2017, Plaintiff moved to remand to state court. On August 28, 2018, this Court granted Plaintiff's motion concluding that Defendants had not met the amount in controversy requirements of either CAFA or Section 1332. See Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2018 WL4092074 (D. Mass. Aug. 28, 2018).

         Thereafter, Defendants conducted an internal investigation of their updated records finding that the putative class damages now exceed CAFA's $5 million threshold. Consequently, on September 7, 2018, Defendants once again removed to this Court. (Docket No. 1). On October 5, 2018, Plaintiff once again moved to remand to state court. (Docket No. 13).

         Legal Standard

         CAFA was enacted in order to expand the number of class actions that could be litigated in federal court. Amoche v. Guarantee Tr. Life Ins. Co., 556 F.3d 41, 49 (1st Cir. 2009) (“In CAFA, Congress expressly expanded federal jurisdiction largely for the benefit of defendants against a background of what it considered to be abusive class action practices in state courts.”). Congress achieved that purpose “by imposing only a minimal diversity requirement, eliminating the statutory one-year time limit for removal, and providing for interlocutory appeal of a federal district court's remand order.” Id. at 47-48 (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d)(2), 1453(b), (c)).

         Congress did, however, impose some restrictions on CAFA's reach. Pursuant to CAFA, a district court has jurisdiction over a class action if there is minimal diversity among the parties, the putative class includes at least 100 members, and the amount is controversy is greater than $5 million. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d)(2), (5)(B); see also Romulus v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., 770 F.3d 67, 69 (1st Cir. 2014).

         Section 1446(b) stipulates two time periods within which a defendant is required remove a class action that satisfies CAFA's jurisdictional conditions from state court to federal court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1453(b) (applying Section 1446(b)(1) and (b)(3) removal requirements to class actions). “If the case as stated by the initial pleading is removable, Section 1446(b)(1) requires the defendant to remove within thirty days of its receipt. Section 1446(b)(3) requires the defendant to remove within thirty days of receiving a subsequent paper form which it may first be ascertained that the class action is or has become removable.” Romulus, 770 F.3d at 69 (citations omitted).

         Discussion

         There are two questions presented in this case. The first is whether the two thirty-day periods described in Section 1446(b)(1) and (b)(3) are the only periods when Defendants can remove or whether they are merely periods during which Defendants must remove if one of the triggering events occur. If they are not the only periods when Defendants may remove, the second issue is whether this is a situation where successive removal attempts are permissible.

         The first question is an open one in this circuit. See Romulus, 770 F.3d at 80 n.12 (“We do not address the complicated questions concerning the possibility of removal outside of the specified CAFA statutory procedures.”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a):

Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United Sates for the ...

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