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Krashna v. Oliver Realty Inc.

February 2, 1990

MATTHEW KRASHNA AND TAMARA D. KRASHNA, HIS WIFE, APPELLANTS
v.
OLIVER REALTY, INC., GRANT BUILDING INC., A/K/A GRANT BUILDING AND SUSAN L. NIEDBALA



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civil Action No. 87-1899.

Higginbotham, Chief Judge.

Author: Higginbotham

HIGGINBOTHAM, Chief Judge.*fn1

Before filing an answer, defendants filed a timely notice of removal in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, asserting that the non-derivative state claims were completely preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 185 (1982). After Krashna filed a motion to remand, defendants sought summary judgment, which was granted by the district court in favor of all defendants on all claims.*fn2 This appeal followed.

We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (1982). Our review is plenary.

II.

Removal of civil actions from state to federal court is governed by 28 U.S.C.A. § 1441 (West 1973 & Supp. 1989). Section 1441(a) provides in part:

Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, 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 . . . defendants[] to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.

Because there is no diversity of citizenship between the parties, original jurisdiction must rest on a federal question. Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318, 107 S. Ct. 2425 (1987).

Under the federal question statute, the district courts have original jurisdiction of all civil actions "arising under the . . . laws . . . of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (1982). As we have stated, "In order for a case to be removable under § 1441 and § 1331, the well-pleaded complaint rule requires the federal question be presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Railway Labor Executives Ass'n v. Pittsburgh & L.E.R.R., 858 F.2d 936, 939 (3d Cir. 1988) (citation omitted); see Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392. "The rule makes the plaintiff the master of the claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law." Id. It follows that an action may not be removed on the basis of a federal defense, even ordinary preemption. Id. at 393; see Railway Labor, 858 F.2d at 941-42.

Nonetheless, under an exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule known as the complete preemption doctrine, the preemptive force of a statute can be "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.'" Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393 (quoting Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65, 95 L. Ed. 2d 55, 107 S. Ct. 1542 (1987)). "The complete preemption doctrine holds that 'Congress may so completely preempt a particular area, that any civil complaint raising this select group of claims is necessarily federal in character.'" Railway Labor, 858 F.2d at 939 (quoting Metropolitan Life, 481 U.S. at 63-64). For the purposes of removal, "[once] an area of state law has been completely preempted, any claim purportedly based on that preempted state law is considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law." Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393; see Railway Labor, 858 F.2d at 939.*fn3

We have recently identified two factors that are necessary for "a federal court in a case removed from a state court . . . to recharacterize what purports to be a state law claim as a claim arising under a federal statute." Railway Labor, 858 F.2d at 942. First, "the statute relied upon by the defendant as preemptive [must] contain[] civil enforcement provisions within the scope of which the plaintiff's state claim falls." Id.; see Aaron v. National Union Fire Ins. Co., 876 F.2d 1157, 1165 (5th Cir. 1989). The federal statute must subsume the interest vindicated by the state law, not the remedy provided. Railway Labor, 858 F.2d at 942 & n. 2; see Allstate Ins. Co. v. 65 Sec. Plan, 879 F.2d 90, 93 (3d Cir. 1989). Second, there must be "a clear indication of a Congressional intention to permit removal despite the plaintiff's exclusive reliance on state law." Railway Labor, 858 F.2d at 942; see Allstate, 879 F.2d at 93; see also Aaron, 876 F.2d at 1165.

A.

Because Krashna's complaint relies solely on state law, the well-pleaded complaint rule would ordinarily bar removal of this action. As we have noted, however, removal is proper if § 301 of the LMRA completely preempts Krashna's state law claims. Krashna's claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and tortious interference with contract are clearly outside the scope of the collective bargaining agreement and § 301 of the LMRA. The question remains whether the claim of wrongful ...


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