United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a motion to remand filed by the
plaintiffs, Eugene Baird and Rhino Products, Inc. (Doc. 3).
For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the motion.
plaintiffs instituted this action in the Circuit Court of
Jefferson County, Alabama on May 4, 2015. (Doc. 1-1, pp.
4-18). In their original complaint, the plaintiffs asserted
federal claims under RICO and the Sherman Act, state-law
antitrust claims under Alabama Code §§ 6-5-60 and
8-10-1, and state-law claims of civil conspiracy and tortious
interference with business relations. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 11-16).
The defendants, PPG Industries, Inc., PPG Architectural
Finishes, Inc., Chris Sides, and Dave Hina, removed the case
to this Court on June 5, 2015 on the basis of federal
question jurisdiction. (Doc. 1-1, p. 24; Doc. 1, Case No.
2:15-cv-00951-MHH); see also 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331, 1441(a). The plaintiffs filed a 9-count
amended complaint in this Court on July 3, 2015. (Doc. 6,
Case No. 2:15-cv-00951-MHH).
defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiffs' amended
complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a),
9(b), and 12(b)(6). (Docs. 10, 19, Case No.
2:15-cv-00951-MHH). On July 29, 2016, the Court dismissed
with prejudice the plaintiffs' claims under RICO and the
Sherman Act (counts V-IX) and remanded the plaintiffs'
claims for civil conspiracy and intentional interference with
business relations (counts II and III) to state court. (Doc.
27, Case No. 2:15-cv-00951-MHH). The Court did not remand the
plaintiffs' state-law antitrust claims (counts I and IV)
because the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed those claims.
(See Doc. 3-1, pp. 3, 5; Doc. 27, p. 1, Case No.
state court, the defendants moved to dismiss the
plaintiffs' claims for civil conspiracy and intentional
interference with business relations. (Doc. 1-2, pp. 2-13).
The state court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss.
(Doc. 3-1, p. 7). Regarding the plaintiffs' state-law
antitrust claims, the state court found that because the
plaintiffs had voluntarily dismissed those claims in federal
court, the claims were not before the state court on remand.
(Doc. 3-1, p. 5). The state court explained that because the
plaintiffs' voluntary dismissal of the state-law
antitrust claims was without prejudice, the plaintiffs were
free to refile the claims. (Doc. 3-1, p. 5).
November 22, 2016, the plaintiffs filed a second amended
complaint in state court. (Doc. 1-2, pp. 70-82). In the
second amended complaint, the plaintiffs maintain their
claims for civil conspiracy and intentional interference with
business relations and re-assert their state-law antitrust
claims under Alabama Code §§ 6-5-60 and 8-10-1.
(Doc. 1-2, pp. 78-82). The defendants removed the case to
this Court on December 9, 2016, again citing 28 U.S.C. §
1331 as the basis for removal. (Doc. 1, p. 3). On January 27,
2017, the plaintiffs filed the motion to remand currently
before the Court. (Doc. 3).
defendants argue that the plaintiffs' second amended
complaint alleges violations of federal antitrust law and
“raise[s] substantial issues of federal law because
federal law governs Alabama antitrust actions.” (Doc.
1, pp. 3-4; Doc. 5, p. 4). Therefore, according to the
defendants, this case arises under federal law within the
meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and is properly removable
under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). (Doc. 1, pp. 2-4). The
plaintiffs argue that the Court should remand this action to
state court (1) because the plaintiffs do not affirmatively
allege a federal claim in their second amended complaint, but
instead only “make brief factual references to the
Sherman Act, ” and (2) because federal antitrust law
does not wholly displace Alabama antitrust law but merely
provides the framework for courts to use when analyzing
Alabama antitrust claims. (See Doc. 3, pp. 5-8).
statutes are construed narrowly[, and] where plaintiff and
defendant clash about jurisdiction, uncertainties are
resolved in favor of remand.” Williams v. AFC
Enters., Inc., 389 F.3d 1185, 1189 (11th Cir. 2004)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Generally,
“absent diversity jurisdiction, a case will not be
removable if the complaint does not affirmatively allege a
federal claim.” Beneficial Nat'l Bank v.
Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 6 (2003). As an exception to this
rule, “a state claim may be removed to federal court .
. . when a federal statute wholly displaces the state-law
cause of action through complete pre-emption.”
Id. at 8. The United States Supreme Court explained
in Beneficial: “[w]hen the federal statute
completely pre-empts the state-law cause of action, a claim
which comes within the scope of that cause of action, even if
pleaded in terms of state law, is in reality based on federal
law.” Id. Such a claim, according to the
Supreme Court, is therefore removable under 28 U.S.C. §
defendants do not argue that federal jurisdiction exists
because federal antitrust law completely preempts Alabama
antitrust law. In fact, the defendants assert that
“this is not an issue of federal preemption[.]”
(Doc. 5, p. 4). The Court agrees. See California v. ARC
Am. Corp., 490 U.S. 93, 102 (1989) (“Congress
intended the federal antitrust laws to supplement, not
displace, state antitrust remedies . . . [a]nd on several
prior occasions, the Court has recognized that the federal
antitrust laws do not pre-empt state law.”) (citations
omitted). Thus, removal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. §
1331 only if the plaintiffs' second amended complaint
affirmatively alleges a federal claim. Beneficial,
539 U.S. at 6. It does not.
their second amended complaint, the plaintiffs allege that
they routinely received from PPG products that were shipped
via interstate and intrastate commerce and that they
routinely transacted business with businesses and individuals
located in states such as Alabama, Florida, Mississippi,
Georgia, and Kentucky. (Doc. 1-2, p. 72, ¶¶ 14-21).
The plaintiffs also state in the factual allegations section
of the second amended complaint that the defendants'
conduct “violates Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act .
. . .” (Doc. 1-2, p. 78, ¶¶ 50-51). The
plaintiffs do not discuss the Sherman Act, or any other
federal law, elsewhere in the pleading. Instead, the
plaintiffs assert four claims under Alabama law: creation of
an unlawful trust, combine, or monopoly in violation of
Alabama Code § 6-5-60; civil conspiracy; intentional
interference with business relations; and price fixing or
limiting the quantity of a commodity in violation of Alabama
Code § 8-10-1. (Doc. 1-2, pp. 78- 82). The plaintiffs
explicitly state that all four claims “are state law
claims.” (Doc. 1-2, p. 71, ¶ 8).
defendants contend that the plaintiffs' references to the
Sherman Act in paragraphs 50 and 51 “appear to state a
cause of action for a violation of the Sherman Act even
though it is not asserted as a separate count” and that
the plaintiffs' allegations regarding interstate commerce
“give rise only to a federal antitrust claim, not a
state law claim” because Alabama's antitrust laws
regulate only activity that occurs within the geographical
boundaries of Alabama. (Doc. 5, pp. 2, 4). The Court is not
persuaded by the defendants' arguments.
arises under federal law “only when the plaintiff's
statement of his own cause of action shows that it is based
upon [federal law].” See Beneficial, 539 U.S.
at 6. The plaintiffs' second amended complaint shows that
the plaintiffs' claims are based on Alabama common law
and Alabama Code §§ 6-5-60 and 8-10-1, not federal
law. (See Doc. 1-2, pp. 71, 78-82). Sections 6-5-60
and 8-10-1“reach transactions within this state, in the
geographic sense, even though such transactions may affect
interstate commerce[.]” See Griffiths v. Blue Cross
and Blue Shield of Ala., 147 F.Supp.2d 1203, 1220 (N.D.
Ala. 2001) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Thus, the plaintiffs' references to interstate commerce
do not prohibit the plaintiffs from asserting a claim under
Alabama antitrust law. Likewise, the plaintiffs' statements
regarding the Sherman Act are consistent with ...