United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
Scott Coogler, United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendants' Joe Church
(“Church”) and Walker Rehabilitation Center's
(“Walker Rehabilitation”) Motion to Dismiss or in
the Alternative Recharacterize Plaintiff's Complaint.
(Doc. 3.) Plaintiff Delilah Brand (“Brand”)
originally filed this suit in state court alleging claims for
breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, bad faith,
negligent misrepresentation, false representation,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud in the
inducement, failure to warn, deceit, and conversion.
Defendants Church and Walker Rehabilitation removed the suit
to this Court, arguing that Brand's claims are completely
preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29
U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461, (“ERISA”). In
response, Brand filed an Objection to Defendants' Notice
of Removal (doc. 4), which this Court construes as a motion
to remand. For the reasons stated below, Church and Walker
Rehabilitation's Motion to Dismiss (doc. 3) is due to be
GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART, and Brand's Motion to
Remand (doc. 4) is due to be DENIED.
is a former employee of Walker Rehabilitation, which is owned
and operated by Church. As an employee, Brand directed that
payroll deductions from her paycheck be used to pay for
Alliance Medical Supplement Insurance (“Alliance
Insurance”) premiums. On June 26, 2018, Brand started
chemotherapy. To pay for these treatments, Brand presented
her medical provider with her Alliance Insurance. However,
Brand's medical provider notified her that the Alliance
Insurance was invalid. According to Brand, her employers were
not using her withheld wages to pay her insurance premiums,
but instead, were converting funds deducted from her
paychecks for their own purposes. Brand also alleges that
Defendant Alliance Medical Supplement Insurance Company
(“Alliance”) acted in bad faith when it refused
to pay her claim for the chemotherapy treatments and that it
failed to warn her that the insurance premiums were not being
Standard of review
reaching the motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court
must first decide whether it has subject matter jurisdiction
over Brand's state law claims. Only if the Court finds
jurisdiction will it address the motion to dismiss. To
survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must
generally satisfy the pleading requirements in Fed.R.Civ.P.
8. Rule 8 requires a pleading to contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Rule
8 marks a notable and generous departure from the
hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it
does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed
with nothing more than conclusions.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). Instead, “[t]o
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
for relief that is plausible on its face.” Id.
at 678 (internal quotations omitted). Iqbal
establishes a two-step process for evaluating a complaint.
First, the Court must “begin by identifying pleadings
that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at
679. Second, “[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual
allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id. Factual allegations in a
complaint need not be detailed, but they “must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007).
need not specifically plead each element in his or her cause
of action, but the pleading must contain “enough
information regarding the material elements of a cause of
action to support recovery under some viable legal
theory.” Am. Fed'n Labor & Cong. of Indus.
Orgs. v. City of Miami, Fla., 637 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th
Cir. 2011) (internal quotations omitted). Ultimately, the
Court must be able to draw a reasonable inference from the
facts that the other party is liable. Reese v. Ellis,
Painter, Ratterree & Adams, LLP, 678 F.3d 1211, 1215
(11th Cir. 2012).
Federal Jurisdiction and Complete Preemption
determining whether remand is appropriate, the Court will ask
whether removal was proper in the first place. Under 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a), defendants may remove a civil action
if the action could have originally been filed in federal
court. See Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S.
386, 392 (1987). If the action could not have originally been
brought in federal court, it must be remanded to the state
court in which it was filed. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
“Any doubts about the propriety of federal jurisdiction
should be resolved in favor of remand to state court.”
Adventure Outdoors, Inc. v. Bloomberg, 552 F.3d
1290, 1294 (11th Cir. 2008).
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only
that power authorized by Constitution and statute.”
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377 (1994). One such authorization of power is original
jurisdiction over cases that “aris[e] under”
federal law. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Under the well-pleaded
complaint rule, a case arises under federal law only if the
presence of a federal question is clear from the face of the
plaintiff's complaint. Caterpillar Inc., 482
U.S. at 392. In other words, the mere existence of an
anticipated federal defense is insufficient to support
federal question jurisdiction. See Id. at 393.
Brand asserts only state law claims, the face of her
complaint does not present a federal question. Complete
preemption, however, is a “narrow exception to the
well-pleaded complaint rule and exists where the preemptive
force of a federal statute is so extraordinary that it
converts an ordinary state law claim into a statutory federal
claim.” Conn. State Dental Ass'n v. Anthem
Health Plans, Inc., 591 F.3d 1337, 1343 (11th Cir. 2009)
(citing Caterpillar Inc., 482 U.S. at 393).
ERISA's civil enforcement provision, 29 U.S.C. §
1132(a)(1)(B),  is one of the few federal statutes that
completely preempts state law claims making those claims
removable to federal court. See Aetna Health Inc. v.
Davila, 542 U.S. 200, 209 (2004); Metro. Life Ins.
Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 64-67 (1987). Defendants
argue that this provision is what allowed them to remove
Brand's claims to this Court.
Eleventh Circuit has adopted a two-part test to determine
whether ERISA completely preempts a state law claim:
“(1) whether the plaintiff could have brought [her]
claim under § 502(a); and (2) whether no other legal
duty supports the plaintiff's claim.” Conn.
State, 591 F.3d at 1345 (citing Davila, ...