United States District Court, District of Columbia
C. LAMBERTH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on plaintiffs Motion to Remand
[ECF No. 15]. Upon consideration of this motion and the
defendants' opposition, the Court will
DENY plaintiffs motion. Additionally,
defendants' Unopposed Motion to File the Confidential
Declaration of Kelly Stephenson Under Seal [ECF No. 17] is
originally filed this action in the Superior Court of the
District of Columbia, on behalf of itself and the interests
of the general public, seeking injunctive and equitable
relief under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection
Procedures Act ("CCPA"), D.C. Code §§
28-3901, et seq. The CCPA, among other things, makes
it unlawful to make misrepresentations and omissions in
connection with the sale of consumer goods or services.
See Id. § 28-3904. Here, plaintiff alleges that
Mott's LLP ("Mott's"), a subsidiary of Dr
Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. (collectively,
"defendants"), employed deceptive labeling and
marketing practices in selling its applesauce products.
Plaintiff requests an order "directing Defendants to
disgorge the profits obtained from each sale of the
[applesauce] Products in the District of Columbia" and
establishing a community fund "for the benefit of the
general public" into which Mott's is to pay
"all monies which it has been required to
disgorge." Compl. at 23. Additionally, plaintiff seeks
declaratory relief, an injunction, and an award of costs and
attorneys' fees. Id.
case reached this Court when defendants removed the case
under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, invoking this Court's
diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Plaintiff
now moves to remand the case back to Superior Court.
Plaintiff does not argue that defendants failed to follow the
proper procedure for removal or that the parties are not
completely diverse. Plaintiff argues only that defendants
failed to carry their burden establishing the requisite
amount in controversy.
Standard of Review
actions filed in state court may be removed to a United
States district court by the defendant so long as the case
could have originally been filed in federal court. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(a) (2012). However, "[i]f at any time before
final judgment it appears that the district court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be
remanded." Id. § 1447(c). A challenge to
subject matter jurisdiction may be raised on a motion to
remand by the parties. Id. A "party opposing a
motion to remand bears the burden of establishing that
subject matter jurisdiction exists in federal court."
Int'l Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers
v. Ins. Co. of the W., 366 F.Supp.2d 33, 36 (D.D.C.
2005) (citation omitted). Courts are to construe the removal
statute narrowly in order to avoid federalism concerns,
Shamrock Oil & Gas Corp. v. Sheets, 313 U.S.
100, 108 (1941), and any doubts about the existence of
subject matter jurisdiction are to be resolved in favor of
remand. Nat'l Consumers League v. Flowers Bakeries,
LLC, 36 F.Supp.3d 26, 30 (D.D.C. 2014).
The Present Case is Properly Removable
issue here is whether this case satisfies the
amount-in-controversy component of federal diversity
jurisdiction, which requires that "the matter in
controversy exceed the sum or value of $75, 000." 28
U.S.C. § 1332(a). "[A] defendant's notice of
removal need include only a plausible allegation that the
amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional
threshold." Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC
v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). And evidence
establishing the amount in controversy is required "only
when the plaintiff contests, or the court questions, the
defendant's allegation." Id. Here, the
plaintiff does in fact contest defendants' allegation
related to the amount in controversy, but defendants meet
their burden of demonstrating, by a preponderance of the
evidence, that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
See 28 § 1446(c)(2)(B).
"the separate and distinct claims of two or more
plaintiffs cannot be aggregated in order to satisfy the
jurisdictional amount requirement." Snyder v.
Harris, 394 U.S. 332, 335 (1969). But the Supreme Court
recognized an exception to this non-aggregation principle for
"cases in which two or more plaintiffs unite to enforce
a single title or right in which they have a common and
undivided interest." Id.
discussed above, supra Part I, one of the remedies
plaintiff seeks is disgorgement of profits from the
applesauce products in a community fund for the general
public. Courts in this district recognize disgorgement as an
"integrated claim" in which plaintiffs have a
"common and undivided interest." See Aetna U.S.
Healthcare, Inc. v. Hoechst Aktiengesellschaft, 48
F.Supp.2d 37, 41 (D.D.C. 1999). Therefore, the profits
disgorged may be aggregated to meet the amount in controversy
requirement. See Nat'l Consumers League v. Flowers
Bakeries, LLC, 36 F.Supp.3d 26, 32 n.3 (D.D.C. 2014);
Nat'l Consumers League v. Bimbo Bakeries USA, 46
F.Supp.3d 64, 72 (D.D.C. 2014); Mostofi v. Network
Capital Funding Corp., 798 F.Supp.2d 52, 55 (D.D.C.
question, then, is whether defendants demonstrate by a
preponderance of the evidence that the profits from the
applesauce products exceed $75, 000. The Court finds that