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Anderson v. XTO Energy, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 17, 2018

RONDALE ANDERSON, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
XTO ENERGY, INC, and MICHAEL WAYNE MARRIOTT Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to Remand to State Court, filed July 5, 2018 (Doc. 23). Having reviewed the parties' briefs and applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiff's Motion is well-taken and, therefore, is GRANTED. This matter is therefore REMANDED to the Eleventh Judicial District Court, County of San Juan, State of New Mexico.

         BACKGROUND

         This is a class action asserting a violation of New Mexico Minimum Wage Act. Plaintiff was a lease operator for Defendant XTO Energy, Inc, in San Juan County, New Mexico. Plaintiff filed a complaint against both XTO Energy, Inc. and Michael Marriott, alleging that they failed to pay him and sixty other lease operators overtime as required under the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act. Under the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act (“NMMWA”), “[a]n employee shall not be required to work more than forty hours in any week of seven days, unless the employee is paid one and one-half times the employee's regular hourly rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of forty hours.” See NMSA § 50-4-22(D).

         As a lease operator, Plaintiff maintained oilfield equipment, measured the level of oil in tanks, and input data into spreadsheets regarding the amount of oil a well produces. Defendant Marriott was the senior superintendent for Defendant XTO in New Mexico, and was allegedly the senior supervisor in New Mexico. There were two layers of supervisors - foremen and assistant superintendents - between Defendant Marriott and the lease operators. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Marriott had the authority to make personnel, scheduling, and compensation decisions, which Defendants dispute.

         The citizenship of the parties appears to be uncontested based on the face of the complaint and the Notice of Removal. Plaintiff is a New Mexico citizen, and Defendant XTO Energy is incorporated in Delaware, with its principal place of business in Texas. Doc. 1, p. 3. Defendant Marriott is a citizen of New Mexico.

         On June 4, 2018, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal (Doc. 1) on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Although Defendant Marriott is a citizen of New Mexico and therefore non-diverse with Plaintiff, Defendants allege that Defendant Marriott was fraudulently joined. Specifically, they assert that he is not an “employer” under the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act, and therefore no claim under the Minimum Wage Act can be asserted against him. Defendants included, as an appendix to their Notice of Removal, a declaration by Defendant Marriott which purports to assert facts showing that he was not an employer.

         On June 11, 2018, Defendant Marriott filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 12) under Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), arguing that claims against him should be dismissed, because he cannot be an employer under the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act.

         On July 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed this Motion to Remand on the basis that the Court lacks diversity jurisdiction, and Defendant Marriott was not fraudulently joined.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Removal and Diversity Jurisdiction.

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; thus, there is a presumption against removal jurisdiction, which the defendant seeking removal must overcome. See Fajen v. Found. Reserve Ins. Co., 683 F.2d 331, 333 (10th Cir.1982); Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 251 F.3d 1283, 1290 (10th Cir. 2001).

         Plaintiffs removed this case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). To invoke diversity jurisdiction, “a party must show that complete diversity of citizenship exists between the adverse parties and that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.” Dutcher v. Matheson, 733 F.3d 980, 987 (10th Cir. 2013). “Complete diversity is lacking when any of the plaintiffs has the same residency as even a single defendant.” Id.; see also Lincoln Prop. Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 84, 126 S.Ct. 606, 609, 163 L.Ed.2d 415 (2005) (“Defendants may remove an action on the basis of diversity of citizenship if there is complete diversity between all named plaintiffs and all named defendants, and no defendant is a citizen of the forum State.”). “[T]he relevant time period for determining the existence of complete diversity is the time of the filing of the complaint.” Siloam Springs Hotel, L.L.C. v. Century Sur. Co., 781 F.3d 1233, 1239 (10th Cir. 2015).

         A matter may be remanded back to state court if the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction (such as diversity jurisdiction). 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The removing defendant bears the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction.

         II. Fraud ...


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