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Wagner v. Team Health Holdings, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

July 21, 2014

LORI WAGNER, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
TEAM HEALTH HOLDINGS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH M. HOOD, Jr., Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [D.E. 10] and Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. [D.E. 11]. The motions being fully briefed, and the Court being otherwise sufficiently advised, these motions are now ripe for review.

I. Procedural Background

Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, filed her complaint on April 10, 2014 in Fayette Circuit Court. [D.E. 1-1 at 4]. Plaintiff made claims of breach of contract, conversion, violation of KRS 337.385, fraud and fraud in the inducement, negligence, and a claim for punitive damages. [D.E. 1-1 at 7-13]. On May 5, 2014, Defendant filed a Notice of Removal, alleging the Court has jurisdiction based upon federal-question jurisdiction and the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). [D.E. 1]. On May 7, 2014, Defendant made a motion to reassign the matter to the undersigned, which was granted on May 8, 2014. [D.E. 7]. On May 27, 2014, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss, [D.E. 10], and, on June 4, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand. [D.E. 11].

II. Standard of Review

A. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand

"[A]ny civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). "The notice of removal of a civil action or proceeding shall be filed within 30 days after the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy of the initial pleading." Id. § 1446(b)(1). "[I]f the case stated by the initial pleading is not removable, a notice of removal may be filed within 30 days after receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of a copy 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." Id. § 1446(b)(3).

Only state-court actions that originally could have been filed in federal court may be removed to federal court by the defendant.... The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the well-pleaded complaint rule, ' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.

Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987) (citing Gully v. First Nat'l Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 112-13 (1936)). "[A] case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense, including the defense of pre-emption...." Id. at 393 (alteration in original). However, "[o]n occasion, the Court has concluded that the pre-emptive force of a statute is so extraordinary' that it converts an ordinary state common-law complaint into one stating a federal claim for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule.'" Id. (quoting Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65 (1987)). "Once an area of state law has been completely pre-empted, any claim purportedly based on that pre-empted state law claim is considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law." Id. (citing Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 24 (1983)).

"The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing its right thereto." Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of Ontario v. City of Detroit, 874 F.2d 332, 339 (6th Cir. 1989) (citing Wilson v. Republic Iron & Steel Co., 257 U.S. 92, 97-98 (1921)). "The removal petition is to be strictly construed, with all doubts resolved against removal." Id. (citations omitted).

B. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

A party may present the defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted through motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. The Court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true "well-pleaded facts" set forth in the complaint. Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987) (citations omitted). "A complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations with respect to all material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory." Weiner v. Klais & Co., 108 F.3d 86, 88 (6th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). If it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff's complaint does not state facts sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " then the claims must be dismissed. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see also Weisbarth v. Geauga Park Dist., 499 F.3d 538, 542 (6th Cir. 2007). Further, the complaint must establish "enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" to show the averments are factually plausible. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. While the Court presumes all factual allegations to be true and makes all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiffs, the Court does not have to "accept unwarranted factual inferences." Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). If the "complaint does not contain any factual allegation sufficient to plausibly suggest" each essential element of the averred violation, it does not contain enough factual content to nudge the claim across the line from conceivable to plausible, and must be dismissed. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 680-83 (2009).

III. Analysis

The parties' motions focus on the nature of Plaintiff's claims and how they relate to two cases previously before this Court. Therefore, to properly account for the parties' arguments, a short history of these cases must be recounted. In the first of the cases, Berera v. Mesa Medical Group, PLLC, the Court determined that Berera's state law claims amounted to a tax refund suit, which was preempted by 26 U.S.C. § 7422 and required Berera to seek recovery before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Berera v. Mesa Medical Group, PLLC, No. 5:13-cv-294-JMH (E.D. Ky.), at [D.E. 20]. In the second of the cases, Ednacot v. Mesa Medical Group, PLLC, the Court determined that Ednacot's state law claims sought recovery of federal taxes excessively withheld, as well as claims for recovery of state taxes and employee expenses excessively withheld. Thus, the Court dismissed the claims relating to federal taxes, finding they should be pursued before the IRS, and remanded the claims related to state taxes and employee expenses. Ednacot v. Mesa Medical Group, PLLC, No. 5:14-cv-96-JMH (E.D. Ky. 2014), at [D.E. 24]. These cases did not involve either party currently before the Court. As Plaintiff unequivocally states in its filings that the claims currently before the Court have no relation to ...


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