SBCL removed the case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Plaintiff Arthur Davis ("Davis") has now moved for a remand to state court. While the motion for remand in this case was pending, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation entered an order transferring three related cases against SBCL, all alleging improper billing practices for clinical laboratory testing, to the Honorable Alfred V. Covello in the District of Connecticut for consolidated pretrial proceedings with three related actions already pending in the District of Connecticut. On February 18, 1998, the Panel entered a conditional transfer of the instant case to the District of Connecticut; this transfer will take effect on March 5, 1998. Thus, currently before me is the Plaintiff's Motion for Remand.
Plaintiff argues that this case should be remanded because there are no federal questions on the face of the Complaint. Plaintiff's Remand Mem. at 5. Defendant responds that some of the claims are completely preempted by the civil enforcement scheme of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et. seq. ("ERISA"), because Davis and the class seek restitution of funds, including ERISA plan funds, paid to SBCL. Defendant's Remand Mem. at 10-14. Plaintiff, however, asserts that none of the claims in the Complaint involve the enforcement provisions of ERISA, and, therefore, none of them are completely preempted. Plaintiff's Remand Mem. at 5
In deciding whether this action should be remanded, I must resolve two inquiries: first, whether Davis' complaint relies upon federal law as a ground for recovery, and, second, if it does not, whether it makes a claim that is "completely preempted" by federal law.
Ordinarily, whether a case is one "arising under" the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States, and therefore properly removable to the district court is determined by the district court's examination of a plaintiff's claims under the well-pleaded complaint rule. Dukes v. U.S. Healthcare, Inc., 57 F.3d 350, 353 (3d Cir. 1995). The well-pleaded complaint rule requires that the federal question be presented on the face of the plaintiff's complaint. See Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 62, 95 L. Ed. 2d 55, 107 S. Ct. 1542 (1987). Davis' complaint seeks restitution for violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, fraud, negligence, and unjust enrichment. In no instance does the complaint rely upon federal law. Therefore, I will have jurisdiction only if Davis' claims fall into one of the narrow areas that Congress has decided to completely preempt. See Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 23, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420, 103 S. Ct. 2841 (1983) (preemptive force of a federal statute such as ERISA as to which complete preemption applies is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of action for a claim).
The doctrine of complete preemption applies only when the enforcement provisions of a federal statute create a federal cause of action vindicating the same interest that the plaintiff's state law cause of action seeks to vindicate and when there is affirmative evidence of a congressional intent to permit removal despite the plaintiff's exclusive reliance on state law. Allstate Ins. Co. v. 65 Sec. Plan, 879 F.2d 90, 93 (3d Cir. 1989). The Supreme Court has narrowly applied the complete preemption exception to only two federal statutes, one of which is ERISA. Metropolitan Life, 481 U.S. at 66.
For a state law claim to be completely preempted by ERISA, it must be a claim which falls within the scope of ERISA's civil enforcement scheme, § 502(a). See Joyce v. RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp., 126 F.3d 166, 172 (3d Cir. 1997). Section 502(a) provides, in pertinent part:
a civil action may be brought:
(3) by a participant, beneficiary, or fiduciary (A) to enjoin any act or practice which violates any provision of this subchapter or the terms of the plan, or (B) to obtain other appropriate equitable relief (i) to redress such violations or (ii) to enforce any provisions of this subchapter or the terms of the plan . . .