Can't aggregate California PAGA claims to establish federal jurisdiction

California's Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) allows an employee to bring a representative action against an employer. In Urbino v. Orkin Services (9th Cir 08/13/2013) the plaintiff filed a representative PAGA action in state court, and defendants removed the matter to federal court on the basis of diversity, based on evidence that the aggregated claims of the individual employees could result in liability in excess of the minimum jurisdictional requirements ($75,000) under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). (None of the individual claims would rise above $12,000.)

By a 2-1 vote, the 9th Circuit decided that an employer could not remove the case from state court to federal court because it was not proper to aggregate the potential liabilities owed to all of the individual employees. Absent aggregation, there was no claim in excess of $75,000, so the federal court lacked jurisdiction.