United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
OPINION & ORDER
MICHAEL L. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
American Funeral Financial (“AFF”) sued Defendant
UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Inc. (“UPS”) in state
court for negligent misrepresentations about coverage under
its employee benefit plan. (Dkt. 1-3.) Defendant removed the
action to this Court. (Dkt. 1-5.) Plaintiff seeks to remand
under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), arguing this Court lacks
federal subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt. 7 at 1.) The Court
March 2017, Tanya Maness died. (Dkt. 1-3 ¶ 6.) At the
time, her husband, Joey Maness, worked for Defendant UPS and
participated in an employee welfare benefit plan that
provided access to life insurance benefits. (Dkt. 9 at 2-3.)
At the time of her death, Mrs. Maness had coverage under a
group life insurance policy issued by Prudential Group Life
Insurance Company. (Dkt. 1-3 ¶ 5.) Where applicable,
this plan also provided participants with dependent life
insurance coverage. (Dkt. 9 at 2.) The Employee Retirement
Income Security Act (“ERISA”) governs this plan.
Maness offered to assign $22, 474.75 from his wife's life
insurance benefits to Plaintiff AFF if AFF agreed to pay for
his wife's funeral. (Dkt. 1-3 ¶ 7.) Before agreeing
to this arrangement, Plaintiff called Defendant UPS to verify
that the policy covered Mrs. Maness and that the policy had
sufficient funds to pay the assignment. (Id. ¶
8.) Plaintiff claims Defendant “affirmatively
represented to [it] . . . that the policy's available
benefits would cover the proposed assignment.”
(Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff relied on this alleged
representation by paying for Mrs. Maness's funeral and
burial. (Id. ¶ 10.) When Plaintiff later made a
claim under the assignment for plan benefits, the insurer
told Plaintiff that there was no dependent coverage and that
Defendant had provided a “misverification of dependent
coverage.” (Id. ¶ 13.) The insurance
company thus refused to pay Plaintiff any money.
(Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff then asked Defendant to
pay it the amount of the assignment, but Defendant refused.
(Id. ¶ 15.)
sued Defendant in state court for negligence and
misrepresentation based on Defendant's alleged
“misverification” of coverage - that is,
Defendant telling Plaintiff that Mr. Maness's dependent
coverage included his wife when it did not. (Id.
¶¶ 20-21, 24- 25.) Plaintiff does not allege that
Mrs. Maness was - in fact - covered under the insurance
policy. Plaintiff accepts the insurance company's
representation that Mrs. Maness was not covered. (Dkt. 7-1 at
1 (stating that insurance funds “were never
available” to Plaintiff because Mrs. Maness was
ineligible for coverage).) Instead, Plaintiff sued Defendant
for damages it sustained when it relied on Defendant's
“misverification” of coverage - specifically,
money it paid for Mrs. Maness's funeral in exchange for
her husband's assignment of benefits totaling $22,
removed the case to this Court, asserting that ERISA
completely preempted Plaintiff's state law claims. (Dkt.
1-1.) Plaintiff seeks remand under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c),
claiming there is no federal jurisdiction. (Dkt. 7 at 1.)
Standard of Review
from state to federal court is proper if the federal court
has original subject matter jurisdiction over the action.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). If at any time before
final judgment the federal court does not have subject matter
jurisdiction, it must remand the case to state court. 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c). The defendant has the burden of
proving federal jurisdiction, tested at the time of removal.
Adventure Outdoors, Inc. v. Bloomberg, 552 F.3d
1290, 1294-95 (11th Cir. 2008).
the amount in controversy here is less than $75, 000, this
Court does not have diversity jurisdiction over this matter.
28 U.S.C § 1332(a). The Court must rely - if at all - on
federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §
test used for determining whether a claim arises under
federal law is whether a federal question appears on the face
of the plaintiff's well-pleaded complaint. Louisville
& Nashville R.R. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152
(1908). Generally, “a case arises under federal law
only if it is federal law that creates the cause of
action.” Conn. State Dental Ass'n v. Anthem
Health Plans, Inc., 591 F.3d 1337, 1343 (11th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Diaz v. Sheppard, 85 F.3d 1502, 1505 (11th
narrow exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule exists
where a state law claim is filed in state court but a federal
statute provides complete preemption. Id. at 1344.
Complete preemption occurs when “the preemptive force
of a federal statute is so extraordinary that it converts an
ordinary state law claim into a statutory federal
claim.” Id. at 1343 (citing Caterpillar,
Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987)). The
complete preemption doctrine applies only to federal statutes
that provide “the exclusive cause of action for the
claim asserted and also set forth procedures and remedies
governing that cause of action.” Beneficial
Nat'l Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 8 (2003). A
party may remove the state law claim because the federal
statute “wholly displaces the state-law cause of action
through complete pre-emption.” Id.
must also determine whether the asserted facts of the case
support removal. Kemp v. Int'l Bus. Machs.
Corp., 109 F.3d 708, 712-13 (11th Cir. 1997). For
removal to be proper, the court must find that preemption
applies to plaintiff's claims and the relief plaintiff
seeks is available under the preemptive statute. Id.
at 713. A court must resolve all uncertainties or
“doubts about the propriety of federal
jurisdiction” in favor of remand to state court.
Adventure Outdoors, 552 F.3d at 1294.