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United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Leonard WILLIAMS, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated; The Lenny Williams Production Company, a California corporation, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. WARNER MUSIC GROUP CORPORATION, a Delaware Corporation; Warner Bros. Records, Inc., a Delaware Corporation, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 19-56121

Decided: October 30, 2019

Before: KLEINFELD, PAEZ, and CALLAHAN, Circuit Judges. Douglas L. Johnson, Esquire, Attorney, Neville Johnson, Partner, Johnson & Johnson LLP, Beverly Hills, CA, Paul R. Kiesel, Esquire, Attorney, Kiesel Boucher & Larson, Beverly Hills, CA, Jeffrey Alan Koncius, Nicole Ramirez, Kiesel Law LLP, Beverly Hills, CA, Clifford Harris Pearson, Esquire, Attorney, Bobby Pouya, Daniel Leon Warshaw, Esquire, Attorney, Pearson Simon Warshaw & Penney, LLP, Sherman Oaks, CA, for Plaintiffs-Appellees Sean Ashley Commons, Esquire, Attorney, Rollin Ransom, Sheri Porath Rockwell, Sidley Austin LLP, Los Angeles, CA, for Defendants-Appellants


Warner Music Group Corp. and Warner Records Inc. (WBR) appeal from the district court's sua sponte remand of Leonard Williams’ putative class action alleging that WBR underpaid royalties owed to potentially thousands of persons and entities for sound recordings streamed in foreign countries. The district court held that WBR had not made the requisite showing that the matter in controversy exceeds $5,000,000.

This appeal is controlled by our recent decision in Arias v. Residence Inn by Marriott, 936 F.3d 920 (9th Cir. 2019), which vacated a similar remand order. In Arias we held “that when a notice of removal plausibly alleges a basis for federal court jurisdiction, a district court may not remand the case back to state court without first giving the defendant an opportunity to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the jurisdictional requirements are satisfied.” Id. at 925. We conclude that in this case WBR's notice of removal “plausibly alleges a basis for federal court jurisdiction,” and accordingly we vacate the district court's sua sponte remand order.

On remand, should the district court again consider remanding this action to the state court, it should follow our holdings in Arias that: (1) “a removing defendant's notice of removal ‘need not contain evidentiary submissions’ but only plausible allegations of the jurisdictional elements”; (2) “when a defendant's allegations of removal jurisdiction are challenged, the defendant's showing on the amount in controversy may rely on reasonable assumptions”; and (3) “when a statute or contract provides for the recovery of attorneys’ fees, prospective attorneys’ fees must be included in the assessment of the amount in controversy.” Id. at 922 (quoting Ibarra v. Manheim Investments, Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015)).

The district court's order remanding this action to the state court is VACATED and the matter is REMANDED to the district court.

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