United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
KENNETH MINTON, Individually, and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Phyllis J. Minton, deceased PLAINTIFF
PADUCAH & LOUISVILLE RAILWAY, INC., MATTHEW NORWOOD, and WILLIAM FRANKE DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. McKinley Jr., Senior Judge.
matter is before the Court on a motion to remand by Plaintiff
Kenneth Minton, Individually and as Personal Representative
of the Estate of Phyllis J. Minton, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1447(c) [DN 11] and on a motion by Defendant, Paducah
& Louisville Railway, Inc., for leave to file a sur-reply
in opposition to Plaintiff's motion to remand [DN 16].
Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.
September 28, 2018, Phyllis Minton was driving her vehicle
northbound on Blackrock Drive, just north of U.S. Highway 62,
in Leitchfield, Kentucky, when an eastbound train owned and
operated by Defendant, Paducah & Louisville Railway, Inc.
(“P & L Railway”) struck her vehicle at a
railroad crossing (the “Blackrock Crossing”). The
Blackrock Crossing is owned, controlled, and maintained by P
& L Railway. On June 7, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Complaint
against P & L Railway, Engineer Matthew Norwood, and
Conductor William Franke for the wrongful death of Phyllis
Minton asserting a negligence claim against all three
Defendants and a premises liability claim against P & L
3, 2019, Defendant, P & L Railway, removed this action
from the Grayson Circuit Court to this Court alleging federal
question jurisdiction. Norwood and Franke consented to the
removal. Defendant maintains that removal is proper because
Plaintiff asserts claims that are completely preempted by the
Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995
(“ICCTA”), 49 U.S.C. § 10101 (Def.'s
Removal Notice [DN 1] ¶ 14.) Defendant contends that
Plaintiff's claims concerning the design, construction,
maintenance, operation, and repair of the Blackrock Crossing,
although pleaded in terms of state law negligence, are
actually federal claims, which are governed by ICCTA and are
under the jurisdiction and authority of the Surface
Transportation Board (“STB”). (Def.'s Removal
Notice [DN 1] ¶ 21; Def.'s Response [DN 12] at 2.)
Defendant maintains that the Court has supplemental
jurisdiction over any other state-law claims asserted in the
Complaint. (Def.'s Removal Notice [DN 1] ¶ 29.)
August 2, 2019, Plaintiff filed this Motion to Remand [DN 11]
the case to Grayson Circuit Court arguing that the Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff asserts that
Defendant's claim that the Court has jurisdiction based
on the ICCTA is unavailing because Plaintiff did not allege
any federal cause of action in the Complaint. Plaintiff
maintains that this case is a typical negligence claim
seeking damages for a railroad crossing collision and does
not directly attempt to manage or govern a railroad's
decision in the economic realm. Additionally, Plaintiff
argues that even if the ICCTA may defensively preempt some of
the negligence claims asserted by Plaintiff, the defense of
preemption does not create federal jurisdiction. As there is
not complete diversity between the parties, Plaintiff
maintains that the case must be remanded pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the removal statute, “any 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” to federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).
The party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing
that the district court has original jurisdiction.
Eastman v. Marine Mech. Corp., 438 F.3d 544, 549
(6th Cir. 2006). “If at any time before final judgment
it appears that the district court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1447(c). One category of cases of which district
courts have original jurisdiction is “federal
question” cases: cases “arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
28 U.S.C. § 1331.
determining whether a particular case arises under federal
law turns on the ‘well-pleaded complaint' rule,
” Aetna Health Inc. v. Davila, 542 U.S. 200,
207 (2004), i.e., whether 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). “The rule makes the plaintiff the
master of the claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction
by exclusive reliance on state law.” Id.
Accordingly, “the existence of a federal defense
normally does not create” federal-question
jurisdiction, Davila, 542 U.S. at 207, and “a
defendant may not [generally] remove a case to federal court
unless the plaintiff's complaint establishes that the
case ‘arises under' federal law, ”
id. (alteration in original) (quoting Franchise
Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for
S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 10 (1983)) (internal quotation
a corollary or exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule
exists: the complete preemption doctrine. “[W]hen a
federal statute wholly displaces the state-law cause of
action through complete pre-emption, ” the state-law
claim arises under federal law and can be removed.
Beneficial National Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 8
(2003). Removal is permitted in this context because
“[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.; Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393 (noting
that complete preemption creates federal question
jurisdiction when “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'”). The Supreme Court has found only three
statutes that evince congressional intent to completely
preempt a field: § 301 of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. §185,
see Avco Corp. v. Aero Lodge No. 735, International
Ass'n of Machinists, 376 F.2d 337, 339-40 (6th Cir.
1967), aff'd, 390 U.S. 557, 560 (1968); § 502(a) of
ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a), see Metropolitan Life
Insurance Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 63-66 (1987); and
§§ 85 and 86 of the National Bank Act, 12 U.S.C.
§§ 85, 86, see Beneficial National Bank,
539 U.S. at 10-11. Any complaint that purports to assert a
state law claim within the scope of one of these three
federal causes of action “necessarily ‘arises
under' federal law.” Franchise Tax Bd.,
463 U.S. at 23-24.
to complete preemption is an alternative federal cause of
action the plaintiff could have invoked.” Dillon v.
Medtronic, Inc., 992 F.Supp.2d 751, 758 (E.D. Ky. 2014)
(citing Beneficial National Bank, 539 U.S. at 9-10
(holding that preemption supports jurisdiction only if
federal law “provide[s] the exclusive cause of
action”); see also Strong v. Telectronics Pacing
Sys., Inc., 78 F.3d 256, 260 (6th Cir. 1996)). Without a
federal cause of action, “there would simply be nothing
into which to convert the plaintiff's state-law
claims.” Dillon, 992 F.Supp.2d at 758.
“A plaintiff otherwise ‘would be forced into
federal court with no relief available.'”
Id. (quoting Rogers v. Tyson Foods, Inc.,
308 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir. 2002)). “Recharacterizing
state claims to prevent artful pleading around an exclusive
federal cause of action is one thing . . ., but knowingly
repleading the plaintiff right out of court would make a
mockery of the well-pleaded complaint rule.”
Dillon, 992 F.Supp.2d at 758. “So, while
complete preemption displaces the plaintiff as master of his
complaint, recasting state claims as federal ones satisfies
the traditional rule that ‘a case arises under federal
law when federal law creates the cause of action
asserted.'” Dillon, 992 F.Supp.2d at 758
(quoting Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 133 S.Ct.
1059, 1064 (2013) (citing American Well Works Co. v.
Layne & Bowler Co., 241 U.S. 257, 260 (1916))).
However, “preemption alone ‘does not transform
the plaintiff's state-law claims into federal claims but
rather extinguishes them altogether.'”
Dillon, 992 F.Supp.2d at 758 (quoting Rivet v.
Regions Bank of Louisiana, 522 U.S. 470, 476 (1998)).
“Absent a federal remedy, preemption remains merely a
defense and thus cannot satisfy the well-pleaded complaint
determining whether removal of this action to federal court
was proper, the Court must determine whether the ICCTA
completely preempts any of Plaintiff's state law claims.
Congress enacted the ICCTA in 1995, “establishing the
Surface Transportation Board (“STB”) and giving
the STB exclusive jurisdiction over certain aspects of
railroad transportation. 49 U.S.C. §§ 1301,
10501(b).” CSX Transportation, Inc. v. City of
Sebree, Kentucky, 924 F.3d 276, 282 (6th Cir. 2019).
Specifically, the ICCTA provides that:
(1) transportation by rail carriers, and the remedies
provided in this part with respect to rates, classifications,
rules (including car service, interchange, and other
operating rules), practices, routes, ...