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Blevins v. Aksut

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

March 1, 2017

ELIZABETH BLEVINS, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
SEYDI V. AKSUT, M.D., SELMA HEART INSTITUTE, PC, VAUGHAN REGION MEDICAL CENTER, LLC, LIFEPOINT HOSPITALS, INC., LIFEPOINT RC, INC., LIFEPOINT CSGP, LLC, BAPTIST MEDICAL CENTER SOUTH, JACKSON HOSPITAL & CLINIC, INC., Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama D.C. Docket No. 2:15-cv-00120-CG-B

          Before WILSON and JULIE CARNES, Circuit Judges, and HALL, [*] District Judge.

          HALL, District Judge:

         This case arises out of Defendant Doctor Seydi V. Aksut's alleged performance of unnecessary heart procedures. Two issues are on appeal. First, we must decide whether the Class Action Fairness Act's ("CAFA") local-controversy provision, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(4), precluded the district court from exercising federal-question jurisdiction. And if not, we must decide whether Plaintiffs allege that they were injured in their "business or property, " 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c), under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO").

         Below, the district court sided with Defendants on both issues. We affirm in part and vacate in part. We affirm the denial of Plaintiffs' motion to remand because CAFA's local-controversy provision does not prohibit district courts from exercising federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. But we vacate the district court's grant of Defendants' motion to dismiss because Plaintiffs allege economic injuries that are recoverable under RICO.

         I. Background

         According to Plaintiffs, after an examination, Doctor Aksut would falsely tell a patient that the patient needed heart surgery. Doctor Askut would then perform the procedure at a facility operated by Defendants Selma Heart Institute, P.C., LifePoint Hospitals, Inc., LifePoint RC, Inc., LifePoint CSGP, Inc., Baptist Medical Center South, or Jackson Hospital & Clinic, Inc. Defendants would then bill the patient for the procedure. According to the complaint, each Plaintiff underwent some type of unnecessary procedure at one of these locations.

         After learning about this practice, Plaintiffs filed suit in February 2015 in the Circuit Court of Dallas County, Alabama. Plaintiffs' complaint asserts, among other things, civil RICO claims and alleges that Defendants operated a racketeering enterprise through which they performed and billed for the unnecessary heart procedures.

         Defendants timely removed the case to the Southern District of Alabama based on federal-question jurisdiction. Defendants then moved to dismiss the complaint and argued that Plaintiffs allege only personal injuries, which are not recoverable under RICO, and that they failed to plead sufficient facts to support their claims. Around the same time, Plaintiffs moved to remand and argued that CAFA's local-controversy provision prohibited the district court from exercising jurisdiction.

         The magistrate judge assigned to the case reported and recommended that the district court deny Plaintiffs' motion to remand because CAFA was inapplicable and grant Defendants' motion to dismiss because Plaintiffs had failed to plead RICO-recoverable injuries. After entertaining objections to the report and recommendation, the district court adopted it as its opinion and dismissed the case.[1] Plaintiffs now appeal.

         II. Standards of Review

         We review the denial of Plaintiffs' motion to remand de novo. See Henderson v. Wash. Nat'l Ins. Co., 454 F.3d 1278, 1281 (11th Cir. 2006). We also review the grant of Defendants' motion to dismiss de novo, "and we must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to [Plaintiffs]." Id. (quotation omitted).

         III. Discussion

         On appeal, Plaintiffs argue that the district court erred by not remanding the case because CAFA's local-controversy provision precluded it from exercising jurisdiction. And even if it appropriately exercised jurisdiction, Plaintiffs contend that the district court should have denied Defendants' motion to dismiss because ...


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