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Crescent City Surgical Centre v. United Healthcare of LA., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 18, 2019

CRESCENT CITY SURGICAL CENTRE
v.
UNITED HEALTHCARE OF LA., INC.

         SECTION: "S" (3)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARY ANN VIAL LEMMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Rec. Doc. 5) is GRANTED, and this matter is hereby remanded to the 24th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Crescent City Surgical Centre ("Crescent City") is a Metairie-based hospital that provided out-of-network care to patients insured by United Healthcare of Louisiana, Inc. ("United"). It sued United in Louisiana state court alleging state law claims for breach of contract, violations of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act ("LUTPA"), detrimental reliance, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation.

         On September 13, 2019, United removed this matter to federal court. In its notice of removal, United states that Crescent City's state law claims are preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1002, and thus federal question jurisdiction is present and removal is proper.

         Crescent City now moves to remand this case to state court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), claiming that contrary to United's assertions, its claims do not arise under ERISA, and accordingly there is no federal question jurisdiction.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Remand Standard

         Motions to remand to state court are governed by 28 U.S.C. 1447(c), which provides that “[i]f at any time before the final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” The removing defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that federal jurisdiction exists and therefore that removal was proper. Jernigan v. Ashland Oil, Inc., 989 F.2d 812, 815 (5th Cir. 1993). In assessing whether removal is appropriate, the court is guided by the principle, grounded in notions of comity and the recognition that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, that removal statutes should be strictly construed. See Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002). Doubts regarding whether federal jurisdiction is proper should be resolved against federal jurisdiction. Acuna v. Brown & Root, 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000).

         II. Standard for Removal under ERISA

         Removal of state law actions is proper when the complaint falls within the original jurisdiction of the federal district court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Where, as here, there is no diversity of citizenship between the parties, a proper removal requires the existence of a federal question- that is, plaintiff's claims must “arise under” federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Pursuant to the well-pleaded complaint rule, an action “ ‘arises under' federal law ‘only when the plaintiff's statement of his own cause of action shows that it is based upon [federal law].' ” Vanden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60 (2009)(quoting Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149 (1908)). The well-pleaded complaint rule “makes the plaintiff the master of the claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987).

         However, the well-pleaded complaint rule is limited by the doctrine of “complete preemption, ” which acknowledges that “Congress may so completely pre-empt a particular area [of the law] that any civil complaint raising this select group of claims is necessarily federal in character.” Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 63-64 (1986). Under this doctrine, a case may be removed on grounds that the plaintiff has asserted a claim that is preempted by § 514(a) of ERISA. See Dowden v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Tex., Inc., 126 F.3d 641, 642-43 (5th Cir.1997) (citing Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 66 (1987)). Under that provision, ERISA “shall supersede any state causes of action insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan.” 29 U.S.C. § 1144(a).

         In Aetna Health Inc. v. Davila, the Supreme Court addressed the scope of ERISA's complete preemption in connection with removal. 542 U.S. 200 (2004). The Davila court determined that a state law claim is completely preempted by ERISA “if an individual, at some point in time, could have brought his claim under ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B), and . . . there is no other independent legal duty that is implicated by a defendant's actions.” Id. at 210. If “the individual is entitled to such coverage only because of the terms of an ERISA-regulated employee benefit ...


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