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Tortorella v. DRS Technologies

May 4, 2010

MIKE TORTORELLA
v.
DRS TECHNOLOGIES, INC. ET AL



The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable Gary Allen Feess

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

Proceedings: (In Chambers)

ORDER REMANDING CASE

I. INTRODUCTION

On February 2, 2010, plaintiff Mike Tortorella ("Tortorella"), filed suit against defendants DRS Technologies, Inc. and DRS Sensors & Targeting Systems, Inc. ("Defendants"), stating claims for, inter alia, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violations of California Business & Professions Code § 17200 (the "Unfair Competition Law" or "UCL"). (Not. Remov., Docket No. 1, Ex. A.) Defendants timely removed the case to this Court (Not. Remov. at 1.), and Tortorella now moves to remand. (Docket No. 6.) Tortorella's motion is GRANTED. The Court explains its reasoning in greater detail below.

II. DISCUSSION

APPLICABLE LAW

1. REMOVAL AND FEDERAL QUESTION JURISDICTION

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant may remove "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction...to the district court of the United States for the district...embracing the place where such action is pending."

28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, "district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In general, a case "arise[s] under" the laws of the United States only where the "well-pleaded complaint establishes" that "federal law creates the cause of action." Franchise Tax Bd. of State of California v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. California, 463 U.S. 1, 27 (1983); see also Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908).

An exception to the literal application of the well-pleaded complaint rule applies in cases where the subject matter of the complaint falls within an area where federal law occupies the entire field, giving rise to the complete preemption doctrine. Under the complete preemption doctrine, the preemptive force of a federal statute converts an ordinary state common-law complaint into one stating a federal claim for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987); Jackson v. S. Cal. Gas Co., 881 F.2d 638, 641 (9th Cir. 1989); Marin Gen. Hosp. v. Modesto & Empire Traction Co., 581 F.3d 941, 945 (9th Cir. 2009).

2. COMPLETE PREEMPTION UNDER ERISA

In Metropolitan Life Insurance Company v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58 (1987), the Supreme Court held that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a), "reflected Congress's intent to so completely pre-empt a particular area that any civil complaint raising" the "select group of claims" described in section 1132(a) is "necessarily federal in character." Modesto & Empire, 581 F.3d at 945 (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing, 481 U.S. at 63-64). Indeed, "Congress had clearly manifested an intent to make causes of action within the scope of the civil enforcement provisions of [29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)] removable to federal court." Modesto & Empire, 581 F.3d at 945 (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Taylor, 481 U.S. at 66).

Accordingly, if any of a complaint's state law claims "are entirely encompassed by § [1132](a), that complaint is converted from an ordinary state common law complaint into one stating a federal claim," and may properly be removed. Modesto & Empire, 581 F.3d at 945 (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Taylor, 481 U.S. at 65-66). But where the "asserted state law claims do not fall within the civil enforcement provisions of § 1132(a)," complete ...


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