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GOEHL v. MELLON BANK

April 21, 1993

ERIC A. GOEHL, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated
v.
MELLON BANK (DE) I. ORRIN SPELLMAN, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated v. MERIDIAN BANK (DE), and its successor in interest MELLON BANK (DE)



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BY THE COURT; JAMES MCGIRR KELLY

 J. M. KELLY, J. APRIL 21, 1993

 In their Complaints, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants assessed late fees in violation of the Pennsylvania Goods and Services Installment Sales Act, 69 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1101 et seq. ; the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 201-1 et seq. ; and that the late fees constituted unjust enrichment in violation of Pennsylvania common law. Plaintiffs seek recovery of all late charges collected by the Defendants, treble damages (or a minimum of $ 100), and injunctive relief which would restrain Defendants from continuing their practice of charging and collecting late charges and from communicating adverse information relating to late charges to credit bureaus or credit reporting agencies.

 Defendants removed the actions to federal court on the grounds that removal is appropriate because this court had federal question jurisdiction based on the National Bank Act and diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs now move to remand the actions to state court on the grounds that their Complaints present no federal question and do not meet the amount in controversy requirement of diversity jurisdiction. *fn2"

 Section 1441 of Title 28 of the United States Code provides for the removal of civil actions from state to federal court. 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 defendant . . . to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.

 28 U.S.C.A. § 1441(a) (West 1973 & Supp. 1992). Thus, "only state court actions that originally could have been filed in federal court may be removed to federal court by the defendant." Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318, 107 S. Ct. 2425 (1987). As stated above this court will only determine whether it has original jurisdiction based on a federal question.

 Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, the district courts have original jurisdiction "of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." In order for a case to be removable based on federal question jurisdiction, the well-pleaded complaint rule requires that the federal question be presented on the face of plaintiff's "properly pleaded complaint." Railway Labor Executives Ass'n v. Pittsburgh & Lake Erie R.R. Co., 858 F.2d 936, 939 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing Gully v. First Nat'l Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 81 L. Ed. 70, 57 S. Ct. 96 (1936)). Additionally, under the well-pleaded complaint rule, a case is not removable to federal court based on a federal defense, "'including the defense of pre-emption, even if the defense is anticipated in the complaint, and even if both parties concede that the federal defense is the only question truly at issue.'" Id. (quoting Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393); see United Jersey Banks v. Parell, 783 F.2d 360, 367 (3d Cir.) (plaintiff's claims did not "arise under" federal law where state claims could be defeated because of preemptive effect of federal banking laws), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1170, 90 L. Ed. 2d979, 106 S. Ct. 2892 (1986).

 There is, however, an exception or "independent corollary" to the well-pleaded complaint rule known as the "complete preemption doctrine." Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393. The complete preemption doctrine provides that "Congress may so completely preempt a particular area [of law], that any civil complaint raising this select group of claims is necessarily federal in character." Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 95 L. Ed. 2d 55, 107 S. Ct. 1542 (1987). In these cases, "any claim purportedly based on that pre-empted state law is considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law." Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393 (citing Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 24, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420, 103 S. Ct. 2841 (1983) ("If a federal cause of action completely pre-empts a state cause of action any complaint that comes within the scope of the federal cause of action necessarily 'arises under' federal law")).

 The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has established two requirements to determine whether a federal statute completely preempts state law in an area. 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." Railway Labor, 858 F.2d at 942 (citing Franchise Tax, 463 U.S. at 24, 26). The federal statute must subsume the interest vindicated by the state law, not the remedy provided. Id. at 942 n.2. Secondly, there must be "a clear indication of a Congressional intention to permit removal despite the plaintiff's exclusive reliance on state law." Id. at 942 (citing Metropolitan Life, 481 U.S. at 66). Both criteria must be satisfied to establish complete preemption.

 Plaintiffs' Complaints contain only state law causes of action. Defendants argue that the National Bank Act (the "NBA"), 12 U.S.C. §§ 85 and 86, completely preempts the state law claims Plaintiffs assert. This court must first determine whether Plaintiffs' state claims fall within the civil enforcement provisions of the National Bank Act.

 Section 85 of the National Bank Act provides in part:

 Any association may take, receive, reserve, and charge on any loan . . . interest at the rate allowed by the laws of the State, Territory, or District where the bank is located, or at a rate of 1 per centum in excess of the discount rate on ninety-day commercial paper in effect at the Federal reserve bank in the Federal reserve ...


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