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Bryant v. Aetna Health of California Inc.

May 8, 2009

BARBARA BRYANT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AETNA HEALTH OF CALIFORNIA INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REMAND

[Motion filed on January 23, 2009]

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Barbara Bryant's Motion to Remand. Defendant Aetna Health of California removed this case to federal court under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. After reviewing the materials submitted by the parties, the Court grants the Motion to Remand.

I. BACKGROUND

In 2006, Plaintiff Barbara Bryant subscribed to a plan provided by Defendant Aetna Healthcare of California Inc ("Aetna") through her employer. On December 19, 2006, Plaintiff divorced Samuel Bryant. Prior to this, on March 27, 2006, a court had issued a restraining order against Samuel Bryant. (Compl. ¶ 6.)

On November 21, 2007, Plaintiff received an Explanation of Medical Benefits letter from Defendant regarding a medical claim relating to plaintiff's ex-husband, Samuel Bryant. On November 28, 2007, in response to this letter, Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant asking that it communicate directly to Samuel Bryant. Plaintiff's letter stated:

This letter is being sent to you to inform you that Samuel Bryant is no longer my spouse effective December 19, 2006. For your records, attached is a copy of the divorce judgment of dissolution. His contact information is as follows . . . please release me from this matter and contact Mr. Bryant directly. (Compl. ¶ 9.)

When Aetna contacted Samuel Bryant, Aetna provided a copy of Plaintiff's address to Samuel Bryant. (Compl. ¶ 11.)

Plaintiff alleges that, as a result, Plaintiff and her children suffered a direct threat to life and security, and Plaintiff had to move them out of their home. (Compl. ¶ 12.) In particular, Plaintiff alleges her car was keyed and a rock was thrown through her window shortly after the letter went from Aetna to Samuel Bryant, which provided Plaintiff's residential address. (Compl. ¶ 12.)

Plaintiff sued in state court. The complaint alleges four state law causes of action: negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of Plaintiff's right to privacy. (Compl. ¶¶ 20-39.) Defendant removed the case to this Court. Defendant's Notice of Removal stated that Plaintiff's claims were preempted by ERISA and therefore subject to federal question jurisdiction. (Opp'n at 2.) Plaintiff then filed this Motion to Remand.

II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR MOTION TO REMAND

Removal statutes are strictly construed. Luther v. Countrywide Home Loans Servicing, LP, 533 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2008)(citing Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992)). A defendant has the burden to establish that removal is proper, and a court should resolve any doubt against removal.

Gaus, 980 F.2d at 566.

Only actions that could have been filed in federal court originally may be removed by Defendant. Audette v. Int'l Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, 195 F.3d 1107, 1111 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425 (1987)). In the absence of diversity jurisdiction, federal question jurisdiction is required. The presence or absence of federal question jurisdiction is governed by the "well-pleaded complaint rule," which provides that federal ...


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