DECATUR HOSPITAL AUTHORITY, doing business as Wise Regional Health System, Plaintiff - Appellee
AETNA HEALTH, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellant
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Texas
JOLLY, HIGGINBOTHAM, and GRAVES, Circuit Judges.
E. GRAVES, JR., Circuit Judge
appeal relates to ongoing litigation between Wise Regional
Health System, a Texas municipal hospital authority, and
Aetna Health Inc., an insurance plan administrator, regarding
medical insurance claims Wise Regional submitted on behalf of
its patients. Wise Regional sued Aetna in Texas state court,
and, when Aetna removed, it relied in part upon the federal
officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442. Finding
Aetna's removal untimely, the district court remanded and
awarded attorneys' fees.
have appellate jurisdiction over the remand order, and, upon
de novo review, we AFFIRM. We also perceive no abuse
of discretion in the separate attorneys' fee award, and
27, 2015, Wise Regional sent Aetna a demand letter "to
address claims Wise [Regional] has against Aetna for
Aetna's violations of the timely claim processing
requirements imposed by the Texas Prompt Pay Act." Wise
Regional's letter claimed state-law late-payment
penalties in excess of $17.4 million had accrued.
Regional's demand letter made three specific requests.
First, the letter asked Aetna to contact Wise Regional's
counsel to coordinate a "secure, HIPPA-compliant"
transmission of "a detailed list of the claims at
issue." Second, "[t]o make pre-suit negotiations
more productive, " Wise Regional asked Aetna to conduct
a "line-of-business analysis" on the claims list to
identify "the payment arrangement (e.g., self-funded
ERISA, fully insured, Medicare Advantage, FEHBA)"
implicated by each claim. Third, Wise Regional asked Aetna to
provide information regarding any claim "Aetna believes
was timely paid." Aetna's counsel asked for the
claims list on June 19, 2015, and Wise Regional provided it
three days later.
24, two days after sending the claims list, Wise Regional
filed in Texas state court a lawsuit predicated upon
insurance claims it alleges Aetna paid, but paid too slowly.
On November 4, 2015, Wise Regional provided objections and
answers to Aetna's first set of interrogatories. On
December 4, 2015, Aetna removed the case to federal court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) and 28 U.S.C. §
Regional filed a motion to remand, and the district court
issued a remand order on February 19, 2016. The district
court's memorandum opinion stated that "the action
should be remanded because [Aetna] did not timely remove
Regional also filed a motion for attorneys' fees. The
district court granted that motion on March 7, 2016, and
awarded Wise Regional $14, 500. The district court ruled that
Aetna "lacked an objectively reasonable basis for
seeking removal of this action almost five months after
expiration of the thirty-day deadline for removal, " and
stated that "[Aetna's] contention that it first
ascertained from the interrogatory answers that the case is
one that was removable borders on being absurd considering
that the state court pleading of [the] plaintiff provided
exactly that same information."
timely noticed its appeal of both the remand order and the
attorneys' fees award.
parties dispute whether this court has jurisdiction to review
the remand order. Aetna contends that we may review the