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Opelousas General Hospital Authority v. Louisiana Health Service & Indemnity Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

April 9, 2018




         This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's motion for remand. (Doc. # 4). The Motion was fully briefed before this case was transferred to this court (Docs. 4-2, 7, 26, 29), but the Honorable Rebecca F. Doherty stayed consideration of the Motion to Remand pending a decision by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on whether to transfer this case to this court in In re Blue Cross Blue Shield Antitrust Litigation, MDL 2406. (Doc. # 36). Upon transfer, this court invited supplemental briefing on the Motion to address federal law as interpreted by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. (Doc. # 42). That supplemental briefing is now complete. (Docs. # 43, 44, 45, 46-2, 48-1).

         I. Procedural History

         In August 2016, Opelousas General Hospital Authority (“Opelousas”) filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of a putative class of all healthcare providers in Louisiana against Louisiana Health Service & Indemnity Company d/b/a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana (Louisiana Blue Cross), a Louisiana corporation. (Doc. # 1-1). Plaintiff had contracted with Louisiana Blue Cross to provide medical services under Defendant's healthcare network. Plaintiff alleged that Louisiana Blue Cross had violated Louisiana antitrust law (La. R.S. 51:122 and La. R.S. 51:123) by colluding with other Blue Cross entities to eliminate competition in payment for medical services. (Id.). Plaintiff brought suit individually and on behalf of all other Louisiana healthcare providers who had entered into network contracts with Louisiana Blue Cross. Plaintiff did not name any defendants other than Louisiana Blue Cross, the entity with which Plaintiff and the putative class members had contracted. Plaintiff disavowed any and all claims under federal law. (Doc. # 43 at 2).

         Louisiana Blue Cross made no effort to remove the state-filed case. (Doc. # 43 at 2). On November 3, 2016, Plaintiff moved for class certification under Louisiana law. (Doc. # 43 at 2). After consideration of dispositive motion practice, on March 22, 2017, Louisiana Blue Cross filed its Answer. (Doc. # 43-2). On April 27, 2017, a Hearing on Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification was set on June 29, 2017. (Doc. # 43-3).

         On June 27, 2017, two days before the class certification hearing, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (“BCBSA”), an Illinois corporation, filed a Motion for Leave to Intervene in the action. That same day, although leave to intervene had not been granted, Defendant Louisiana Blue Cross and BCBSA removed this matter to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(3), invoking federal jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C.A. §1332(d). This case was thereafter transferred to this court as a tag along by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. (Doc. # 38).

         II. Standard of Review

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that possess only that power authorized by the Constitution and statute. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). It is axiomatic that this court is “‘empowered to hear only those cases within the judicial power of the United States as defined by Article III of the Constitution, ' and which have been entrusted to them by a jurisdictional grant authorized by Congress.” University of South Alabama v. American Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 408 (11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Taylor v. Appleton, 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994)).

         The removing party has the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction over a case removed to this court. Roe v. Michelin North America, Inc., 613 F.3d 1058, 1061 (11th Cir. 2010). “That burden goes not only to the issue of federal jurisdiction, but also to questions of compliance with statutes governing the exercise of the right of removal.” Parker v. Brown, 570 F.Supp. 640, 642 (S.D. Ohio 1983) (citations omitted). Courts strictly construe removal statutes. City of Vestavia Hills v. Gen. Fidelity Ins. Co., 676 F.3d 1310, 1313 (11th Cir. 2012) (citing Univ. of S. Ala. v. Am. Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 405, 411 (11th Cir. 1999)). “[A]ll doubts about jurisdiction should be resolved in favor of remand to state court.” Vestavia Hills, 676 F.3d at 1313.

         In multidistrict litigation, “on matters of procedure, the transferee court must apply federal law as interpreted by the court of the district where the transferee court sits.” Various Plaintiffs v. Various Defendants (“Oil Field Cases”), 673 F.Supp.2d 358, 362-63 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (Robreno, J.); see also Murphy v. F.D.I.C., 208 F.3d 959, 966 (11th Cir. 2000) (“uniformity does not require that transferee courts defer to the law of the transferor circuit.”); Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., 2015 WL 9987969, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 4, 2015) (in multidistrict litigation, “the law of this Circuit applies to federal claims and procedural matters.”).

         III. Analysis

         There are two ways for a defendant to remove a case under § 1446(b):

The first way (formerly referred to as “first paragraph removals”) [and accomplished via § 1446(b)(1)] involves civil cases where the jurisdictional grounds for removal are apparent on the face of the initial pleadings. The second way (formerly referred to as “second paragraph removals”) [and accomplished via § 1446(b)(3)] contemplates removal where the jurisdictional grounds later become apparent through the defendant's receipt of “an amended pleading, motion, order or other paper from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one which is or has become removable.”

Jones v. Novartis Pharms. Co., 952 F.Supp.2d 1277, 1281-82 (N.D. Ala. 2013) (quoting 28 U.S.C. ยง ...

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