United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Richard Caputo United States District Judge
before me is Plaintiff Denise Wingo's
(“Wingo”) Motion to Remand this Action to State
Court. (Doc. 10.) Because § 502(a) of the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”),
29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq., provides
subject matter jurisdiction over this action, Wingo's
motion to remand will be denied.
events leading to this action began when Wingo was injured in
a car accident and received short term disability benefits
totaling $14, 189.28 under a Group Disability Plan issued by
Metlife (the “Plan”). (Doc. 1, Ex. 1, ¶¶
6, 8, 10.) Wingo also brought suit against the tortfeasor,
resulting in a settlement which included compensation for the
personal injuries she sustained in the accident. (Doc. 1, Ex.
1, ¶¶ 11-12.) Trover Solutions, Inc.
(“Trover”),  which contracts with Metlife to provide
recovery services, contacted Wingo on January 27, 2016,
asserting recovery rights against the proceeds of Wingo's
personal injury recovery for the disability benefits paid to
her. (Doc. 1, Ex. 1, Ex. B.) In response, Wingo asserted
through her counsel on April 27, 2016, that Trover's
request violated its own policy and asked Trover to confirm
in writing that it was waiving its entire subrogation
interest in the matter. (Doc. 1, Ex. 1, Ex. C.) Trover
confirmed the next day that it had closed its claim and was
no longer pursuing recovery. (Doc. 1, Ex. 1, Ex. D.) Wingo
never paid any money to Trover. (Doc. 1, Ex. 1, ¶¶
originally filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas of
Pike County, Pennsylvania on or about March 29, 2017. (Doc.
1, Ex. 1.) In her Complaint, Wingo alleges claims against
Trover for violations of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle
Financial Responsibility Law § 1720
(“MVFRL”), the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade
Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”),
and the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act
(“PFCEUA”), as well as attempted theft. (Doc. 1,
Ex. 1, ¶¶ 36-67.) As a result, Wingo requests
“a declaration that  Trover has no right for recovery
of reimbursement of disability benefits paid from the
proceeds” of the relevant settlement for the purpose of
“clarifying and settling the legal relations at issue
between the parties.” (Doc. 1, Ex. 1, ¶¶ 46,
12, 2017, Trover removed the action to this Court. (Doc. 1.)
Trover contends that federal subject matter jurisdiction over
this action exists pursuant to § 502(a) of ERISA, 29
U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), because Wingo seeks a judgment
interpreting the rights of the parties under an
ERISA-regulated welfare benefit plan. (Doc. 1, ¶¶
31, 2017, Wingo filed the instant motion to remand the action
to the Court of Common Pleas of Pike County. (Doc. 10.)
Trover filed a brief in opposition on June 14, 2017 (Doc.
12), and Wingo filed a reply brief in further support of her
motion on June 23, 2017. (Doc. 13.) Thus, the motion to
remand is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
U.S.C. § 1441(a) provides that any civil action brought
in state court of which the federal district courts have
original jurisdiction may be removed by the defendant to the
appropriate federal district court. One category of cases of
which district courts have original jurisdiction is
“[f]ederal question” cases: cases arising under
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28
U.S.C. § 1331. An action must be remanded if “it
appears that the district court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). On a motion to
remand, the removing party bears the burden of establishing
the propriety of removal. See Boyer v. Snap-On Tools
Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990), cert.
denied, 498 U.S. 1085, 111 S.Ct. 959, 112 L.Ed.2d 1046
(1991). Furthermore, “removal statutes are to be
strictly construed against removal and all doubts resolved in
favor of remand.” Id. In determining whether
remand based on improper removal is appropriate, the Court
“must focus on the plaintiff's complaint at the
time the petition for removal was filed, ” and assume
all factual allegations therein are true. Steel Valley
Auth. v. Union Switch & Signal Div. Am. Standard,
Inc., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010 (3d Cir. 1987).
the “well-pleaded complaint” rule, federal
question jurisdiction generally exists only when an issue of
federal law appears on the face of the plaintiff's
complaint.” Pryzbowski v. U.S. Healthcare,
Inc., 245 F.3d 266, 271 (3d Cir. 2001). However, when a
defendant claims removal is proper based on complete
preemption, “a federal court may look beyond the face
of the complaint to determine whether a plaintiff has
artfully pleaded his suit so as to couch a federal claim in
terms of state law.” Id. at 274 (internal
quotation marks omitted). A plaintiff may not avoid removal
to federal court “by omitting to plead necessary
federal questions in a complaint.” Franchise Tax
Bd. of State of Cal. V. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for
S. California, 463 U.S. 1, 22 (1983).
argues that remand is necessary in this case because the
action does not present issues of federal law and does not
involve diversity of citizenship. Trover insists that federal
subject matter jurisdiction exists pursuant to § 502(a)
of ERISA, which provides that “[a] civil action may be
brought by a participant or beneficiary to recover benefits
due to him under the terms of his plan, to enforce his rights
under the terms of the plan, or to clarify his rights to
future benefits under the terms of the plan.” 29 U.S.C.
§ 1132(a)(1)(B). The jurisdictional subsection of
ERISA's civil enforcement provisions provides: “The
district courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction,
without respect to the amount in controversy or the
citizenship of the parties, to grant the relief provided for
in subsection (a) of this section in any action.” 29
U.S.C. § 1132(f).
federal court has original jurisdiction where Congress has
“so completely pre-empt[ed] a particular area 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, 63-64 (1987).
“Certain federal laws,  including ERISA, so
sweepingly occupy a field of regulatory interest that any
claim brought within that field, however stated in the
complaint, is in essence a federal claim. In such cases, the
doctrine of complete preemption provides federal jurisdiction
and allows removal to federal court.” Levine v.
United Healthcare Corp., 402 F.3d 156, 163 (3d Cir.
2005). In particular, § 502(a)(1)(B) of ERISA “is
one of those provisions with such extraordinary preemptive
power that it converts an ordinary state common law complaint
into one stating a federal claim.” Aetna Health
Inc. V. Davila, 542 U.S. 200, 209 (2004) (internal
quotations removed). See also Wirth v. Aetna U.S.
Healthcare, 469 F.3d 305, 307 (3d ...