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Rose Law Firm, P.C. v. Mahler

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

January 11, 2019

ROSE LAW FIRM, P.C., Plaintiff,
v.
MELISSA MAHLER, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL W. MOSMAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before me on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand [3] and Motion to Strike [9]. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand [3] is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion to Strike [9] is DENIED AS MOOT, and this case is remanded to Clackamas County Circuit Court.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Rose Law Firm hired Defendant Melissa Mahler as a freelance attorney through an online platform, Upwork. Upwork required both Plaintiff and Defendant to agree to Upwork's Terms of Service, including payment through the system based on an agreed upon hourly rate and contract terms. In connection with their employment agreement, Plaintiff and Defendant signed a confidentiality agreement which prohibited Defendant from damaging Plaintiff's relationships with clients, employees, and independent contractors.

         Plaintiff and Defendant eventually terminated their agreement, and following termination one of Plaintiff's employees and at least one of Plaintiff's clients left Plaintiff's firm to work with Defendant. Following the separation, Defendant sent Plaintiff several emails demanding further payment and claiming she was owed $66, 494.

         Plaintiff filed suit in Clackamas County Circuit Court on May 22, 2017, seeking declaratory relief that Plaintiff did not owe Defendant any further payment under the Upwork contract, and a declaration that Defendant violated the terms of the Confidentiality Agreement. Defendant was served on June 20, 2017, but contests that service as improper. When this was brought to Plaintiff's attention following a Substitution of Counsel for Defendant, Defendant's new attorney signed an “acceptance of service” document with the original Complaint and summons on July 24, 2017.

         Defendant subsequently moved for dismissal based on lack of personal jurisdiction, which was denied, and filed an Answer to the original Complaint. Following Defendant's responses to Plaintiff's Requests for Admission, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint to clarify that only one contract-now titled the “hourly rate” contract-was at issue in this suit. Plaintiff filed this Amended Complaint on July 19, 2018. The changes in the amended version were minimal. This case had several motions and a trial date for September 2018 set in the Clackamas County Circuit Court before Defendant removed it to this court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446(d) on August 20, 2018.

         In her Notice of Removal, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint sought a “much more broad sweeping declaration that seeks to include ‘ALL' Agreements between the parties.” Notice of Removal [1] ¶ 10. Defendant argues that diversity jurisdiction exists based on the Amended Complaint's newly broadened issues. She alleges that the requirement for the amount in controversy is now met because she plans on seeking damages in excess of $100, 000 for breach of contract, quasi contract, and “other legal theories.” Id. Plaintiff moved to remand.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) allows any civil action originally brought in state court to be removed by the defendant to a district court in the same district if the district court would have had original jurisdiction over the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1332 grants federal courts jurisdiction--also known as diversity jurisdiction-over any civil action where the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1446 governs the procedural requirements for removing a civil action. Section 1446 provides:

(b) (3) Except as provided in subsection (c), if the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable, a notice of removal may be filed 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.
(c) Requirements; removal based on diversity of citizenship.--
(1) A case may not be removed under subsection (b)(3) on the basis of jurisdiction conferred by section 1332 more than 1 year after commencement of the action, unless the district court finds that the plaintiff has acted in bad faith in order to prevent a defendant from removing the action.
(2) If removal of a civil action is sought on the basis of the jurisdiction conferred by section 1332(a), the sum demanded in good faith in the initial pleading shall be deemed ...

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