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Schlegel v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

January 14, 2009

CHARLES SCHLEGEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KAISER FOUNDATION HEALTH PLAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Amended Motion for Reconsideration and Protective Order. Defendants challenge the decision of the magistrate judge to grant Plaintiff's Motion to Compel production of United Network for Organ Sharing ("UNOS") documents. However, because this Court determines it lacks the jurisdiction over this action, this case is hereby remanded.*fn1

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff originally initiated this suit in Sacramento Superior Court on February 9, 2007, alleging violations of state law resulting from Defendants' improper care while Plaintiff was awaiting a kidney transplant.

In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges, "On or about December 18, 2001, Charles enrolled in the Kaiser Plan. Charles purchased the plan individually and not through his employment. Charles has been continuously covered under that plan until the present." Complaint, ¶ 13. Plaintiff attached a copy of that enrollment form, which provided specifically, and exclusively, for individual coverage.

Defendants removed the case to federal court asserting that Plaintiff's claims were completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq. ("ERISA"), and therefore arose under federal law as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Defendants based their argument on Plaintiff's subsequent enrollment in a group plan through his employer, Vacaville Towing. Plaintiff allegedly enrolled in that group plan on or about December 12, 2005.

On March 18, 2008, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel the production of documents. Just a few days later, on March 21, 2008, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss.

On September 11, 2008, this Court denied the Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that it was premature to be able to determine whether ERISA preempted Plaintiff's state law claims. On October 14, 2008, the magistrate judge granted Plaintiff's Motion to Compel.

Against this background, Defendants filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the magistrate judge's ruling granting Plaintiff's Motion to Compel. However, this Court instead holds that it lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims and now remands this action to state court.

STANDARD

A defendant may remove any civil action from state court to federal district court if the district court has original jurisdiction over the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Generally, district courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions in two instances: (1) where there is complete diversity between the parties, or (2) where a federal question is presented in an action arising under the Constitution, federal law, or treaty.

28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332.

The removing party bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Ethridge v. Harbor House Rest., 861 F.2d 1389, 1393 (9th Cir. 1988). Furthermore, courts construe the removal statute strictly against removal. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). If there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance, remand must be granted. See Id.

Therefore, if it appears before final judgment that a district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded to ...


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