The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida remands this case to state court, finding that the case was contractual in nature and not completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
The plaintiff is a fixed-wing air ambulance company that provides emergency air ambulance services to the defendants' members on an out-of-network basis. The defendants include several health insurers that insure health care benefits under their members' policies. The plaintiff mainly alleges that the defendants underpaid the plaintiff's claims for emergency services covered under member policies. The case was originally filed in state court, but the defendants removed it to federal court.
Under 28 USC Section 1441, a case filed in state court can be removed to federal court if the district court has original jurisdiction, which exists if there is federal question jurisdiction under 28 USC Section 1331 or diversity jurisdiction under 28 USC Section 1332. Federal question jurisdiction requires that a case arise under the "Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States" (28 USC Section 1331). In general, a case arises under federal law if federal law creates the cause of action or if a substantially disputed issue of federal law is a necessary element of a state law claim. The burden is on the defendant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that federal jurisdiction exists.
The plaintiff seeks to remand the case to state court because it argues its claims are not preempted by ERISA and that the federal officer removal statute does not apply.
As established by the Supreme Court in Aetna Health Inc. et al. v. Davila, 542 U.S. 200 (2004), a two-prong test applies when determining whether a state law claim is completely preempted by ERISA: (1) The plaintiff, at some point in time, could have brought his or her claim under ERISA Section 502(a)(1)(B), and (2) there is no other independent legal duty that is implicated by a defendant's actions.
Under the first prong, the defendants must show that the plaintiff's claims could have been brought under ERISA Section 502(a). Therefore, the plaintiff's claims must...