United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
DAWN COBB CARRIGAN AND JANET GATES, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
SOUTHEAST ALABAMA RURAL HEALTH ASSOCIATES; GREENWAY ASSOCIATES, LLC; GREENWAY EHS, INC.; SUNRISE TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANTS; LEE INVESTMENT CONSULTANTS, LLC, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Dawn Cobb Carrigan and Janet Gates bring a class action on
behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated
seeking indeterminate damages suffered as a result of lost
medical records. Defendants are Southeast Alabama Rural
Health Associates (“SARHA”), a non-profit Alabama
corporation; Greenway Health, LLC (“Greenway”), a
Delaware LLC; Greenway EHS (“EHS”), an Alabama
corporation; Sunrise Technology Consultants LLC
(“Sunrise”), an Alabama corporation; and Lee
Investment Consultants, LLC (“Lee”), an Alabama
originally filed the lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Pike
County, Alabama, but Defendants Greenway and EHS (“the
Greenway Defendants”) removed it here under the
jurisdictional provision of the Class Action Fairness Act of
2005 (“CAFA”), see 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1332(d)(11) and 1453.
the court is Plaintiffs' motion to remand for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. (Doc. # 28.) Plaintiffs argue that the amount in
controversy is not satisfied and that there exists no
diversity of citizenship. Alternatively, Plaintiffs argue
that CAFA's local controversy exception precludes
subject-matter jurisdiction. After careful consideration, the
court finds that the motion to remand is due to be granted
because Defendants have failed to establish that the amount
in controversy requirement is satisfied.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
courts have a strict duty to exercise the jurisdiction
conferred on them by Congress. Quackenbush v. Allstate
Ins. Co., 517 U.S. 706, 716 (1996). At the same time,
“[f]ederal courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction.” Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31
F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994). Against that legal
backdrop, in actions removed from state court to federal
court, federal courts usually strictly construe removal
statutes, resolve all doubts in favor of remand, and place
the burden of proving jurisdiction on the removing defendant.
Miedema v. Maytag Corp., 450 F.3d 1322, 1328-30
(11th Cir. 2006). However, the Supreme Court has made clear
that “no antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking
CAFA, which Congress enacted to facilitate adjudication of
certain class actions in federal court.” Dart
Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547,
554 (2014). Accordingly, there is no longer any presumption
in favor of remand in deciding CAFA jurisdiction questions.
See Dudley v. Eli Lilly & Co., 778 F.3d 909, 912
(11th Cir. 2014).
their class action complaint, Plaintiffs allege that
Defendant SARHA failed to maintain patient medical records
between November 2011 and August 2016 because of the other
Defendants' failure to maintain properly the database
that housed the medical records. (Compl. ¶ 1.)
Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Greenway, EHS, Sunrise,
and Lee represented to SARHA that they maintained a backup
database to secure the medical records when those Defendants
knew that no such backup existed. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-10.)
As a result, Plaintiffs argue, SARHA violated its duty to
secure properly its patients' medical records, resulting
in damages to Plaintiffs and the class they represent.
seek relief for themselves and all others similarly situated
for Defendants' failure to maintain medical records. The
proposed class is defined as including “[a]ll persons
in the State of Alabama who received treatment at SARHA
medical facilities from November of 2011 through August 26,
2016 who were entitled under Alabama and Federal law to have
their medical records properly preserved.” (Compl.
¶ 15(I).) At the time the complaint was filed, SARHA had
received over 700 separate requests for medical records,
including subpoenas in ongoing litigation, requests from
patients to forward information to specialists, request for
vaccination records to enroll children in school, and
requests for records to send to insurance providers. (Compl.
¶ 51.) It was unable to comply with any of these
requests. (Compl. ¶ 52.)
Plaintiffs make two claims: (1) for a violation of Alabama
Administrative Code Chapter 545-x-4-.08 and -.09, and (2) for
negligence and wantonness. On each count, Plaintiffs do not
make a specific demand for damages; instead, they demand
“any and all available fines, penalties, damages,
compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney's fees,
interest and costs.” (Compl. ¶ 59.)
case began in the Circuit Court of Pike County, and the
Greenway Defendants removed it to the United States District
Court for the Middle District of Alabama within thirty days
of being served with a summons and copy of the complaint.
See § 1332(d)(2) (governing class action
removals); § 1446(b) (governing removal procedures). In
their notice of removal, the Greenway Defendants contend that
jurisdiction of this CAFA action is proper because the
minimal diversity requirements are satisfied, there are more
than 100 plaintiffs, and the monetary claims exceed $5
million in the aggregate. (Not. of Removal ¶ 8);
see § 1332(d)(2), (5). Specifically, Defendants
argue that, based on certain provisions of the Alabama Code
that empower a commission to fine medical practitioners up to
$10, 000 per violation, the amount in controversy is
satisfied, given that the class allegedly numbers 70, 000.
(Not. of Removal ¶ 18); see Ala. Code
§§ 34-24-360, -381.
responded by filing a motion to remand to state court. They
challenge the Greenway Defendants' ability to prove that
the amount in controversy and minimal diversity requirements
under CAFA are satisfied. (Mot. to Remand 4-7.)
Alternatively, Plaintiffs argue that CAFA's local
controversy exception applies to preclude jurisdiction. (Mot.
to Remand 8-9.)
gives district courts subject-matter jurisdiction to
entertain class actions removed from state courts provided
that four requirements are met: “(1) an amount in
controversy requirement of an aggregate of $5, 000, 000 in
claims; (2) a diversity requirement of minimal diversity; (3)
a numerosity requirement that the action involve the monetary
claims of 100 or more plaintiffs; and (4) a commonality
requirement that the plaintiffs' claims involve common
questions of law or fact.” Lowery v. Ala. Power
Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1202-03 (11th Cir. 2007);
see 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(11). Here, Plaintiffs
challenge two of these requirements-the ...