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Bartholoma v. Marriott Business Services

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

July 10, 2018

HAZEL BROWN BARTHOLOMA and JOEY MENDONCA, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,


          J. Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge.


         Defendants Marriott Business Services, Marriott International, Inc., and Essex House Condominium Corporation (collectively, “Defendants”) object under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72.4 to an April 18, 2018 Findings and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Richard L. Puglisi to Grant Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (the “April 18 F&R”). ECF No. 17. The April 18 F&R recommended that the court remand this action to the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii (“State Court”) because Defendants' removal of this action was untimely. Specifically, it determined that Plaintiffs' Third Motion for Class Certification, filed November 6, 2017, triggered 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3), which required Defendants to remove the action “within 30 days after receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.” And, because Defendants removed on February 1, 2018, well past this thirty-day window, the April 18 F&R concluded that the removal was untimely and thus recommended that this case be remanded to State Court.

         Upon de novo review, the court agrees that the filing of the Third Motion for Class Certification was a motion from which Defendant could first ascertain that Plaintiffs were alleging, among other requirements, an amount in controversy in excess of $5 million such that the case was then subject to removal under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”). Accordingly, the court OVERRULES the objections, ADOPTS the April 18 F&R, and REMANDS the action to State Court.


         A. State Court Proceedings

         Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) in State Court on March 8, 2016. ECF No. 5-4. It alleges that Plaintiffs were employed by Defendants at the Marriott's Kauai Beach Club to work on banquets and other food and beverage service events. Id. ¶¶ 5, 14. It further claims that Defendants wrongfully withheld from Plaintiffs a service fee paid by the hotel's customers to Defendants. Id. ¶ 14. This conduct, according to the FAC, was in violation of Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) §§ 481B-14, 480-2, and 388-6, and “Plaintiffs and other members of the proposed class are entitled to treble damages in accordance with HRS Section 480-13(a).” Id. ¶¶ 15, 19. Plaintiffs filed their Third Motion for Class Certification on November 6, 2017. ECF No. 6-3.

         B. Federal Court Proceedings

         On February 1, 2018, Defendants removed the case to this court, asserting CAFA jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand on March 2, 2018, Defendants filed an Opposition on March 15, 2018, and Plaintiffs filed a Reply on March 29, 2018. ECF Nos. 10, 13, and 15.

         After the April 18 F&R granted Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand, ECF No. 16, Defendants filed Objections on May 2, 2018, and Plaintiffs filed a Response to the Objections on May 16, 2018. ECF Nos. 17 & 19. The court determines this matter without a hearing pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d).


         When a party objects to a magistrate judge's findings or recommendations, the district court must review de novo those portions to which the objections are made and “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673 (1980); United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc) (“[T]he district judge must review the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations de novo if objection is made, but not otherwise.”).

         Under a de novo standard, this court reviews “the matter anew, the same as if it had not been heard before, and as if no decision previously had been rendered.” Freeman v. DirecTV, Inc., 457 F.3d 1001, 1004 (9th Cir. 2006); United States v. Silverman, 861 F.2d 571, 576 (9th Cir. 1988). The district court need not hold a de novo hearing; however, it is the court's obligation to arrive at its own independent conclusion about those portions of the magistrate judge's findings or recommendation to which a party objects. United States v. Remsing, 874 F.2d 614, 618 (9th Cir. 1989).


         The sole issue before the court is whether Plaintiffs' Third Motion for Class Certification triggered § 1446(b)(3)'s thirty-day removal clock.[1] Plaintiffs argue that the February 1, 2018 removal to this court was untimely because Defendants were placed on notice sufficient to trigger removal based on their Third Motion for Class Certification, filed on November 6, 2017. Defendants, in turn, claim that the Third Motion for Class Certification did not provide them sufficient notice that the aggregate amount in controversy equals or exceeds $5 million. The court first sets forth the legal principles that apply to CAFA removal, and then addresses the timeliness of Defendants' removal to federal court.

         A. ...

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