that the action is solely a common law negligence action. The Hartenbowers also argue that because the Plan has not yet disbursed any funds for the payment of their medical expenses, the Plan's subrogation rights are not at issue.
The "well-pleaded complaint rule" mandates that the federal district court only has subject matter jurisdiction if the suit, as the plaintiff originally framed it or could have framed it, would have been within the district court's original jurisdiction at the time of removal. Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Elefant, 790 F.2d 661, 667 (7th Cir. 1986); Fravel v. Stankus, 936 F. Supp. 474, 476 (N.D. Ill. 1996). A mere defense of federal preemption does not confer federal question jurisdiction. See Rice v. Panchal, 65 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 1995). However, under the doctrine of complete preemption, state common law claims falling within the scope of ERISA's civil enforcement provision, section 502(a)(1)(B), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), are "displaced," and thus removable to federal court. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 60, 66, 107 S. Ct. 1542, 1544, 1548, 95 L. Ed. 2d 55 (1987); Fravel, 936 F. Supp. at 477. Because Congress has manifested an intent to make a cause of action falling within ERISA section 502(a) removable to federal court, the doctrine of complete preemption applies to such an action, and a plaintiff's complaint in such an action can be recharacterized as a complaint arising under federal law. See Taylor, 481 U.S. at 66-67, 107 S. Ct. at 1548.
Section 502(a)(1)(B) of ERISA allows a plan 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 Seventh Circuit has held that an action by an ERISA plan participant is an action to "enforce his rights under the terms of the plan" within the scope of section 502(a)(1)(B) where "the claim rests upon the terms of the plan or the 'resolution of the [plaintiff's] state law claim ... require[s] construing [the ERISA plan].'" Rice, 65 F.3d at 644-45 (quoting Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 407, 108 S. Ct. 1877, 1882, 100 L. Ed. 2d 410 (1988)). Relying on Rice, district courts have found that a plaintiff's motion to adjudicate liens requires construction and interpretation of an ERISA plan, and can be considered to be within the scope of ERISA section 502(a)(1)(B). See Musinski v. Staudacher, 928 F. Supp. 739 (N.D. Ill. 1996); Fravel v. Stankus, 936 F. Supp. 474 (N.D. Ill. 1996); Speciale v. Seybold, 951 F. Supp. 740 (N.D. Ill. 1996).
For example, in Musinski, the plaintiff had sued the defendant for medical expenses resulting from an automobile accident. After settling with the defendant, the plaintiff moved for adjudication of the lien asserted by his employee benefit plan. 928 F. Supp. at 740. The plaintiff already had received full payment of his medical expenses from the plan, but hoped to limit the amount of expenses that the plan was seeking to capture pursuant to its subrogation/indemnification provision. Id. The plan removed the case to federal court, and the plaintiff moved to remand. Id. The court denied the plaintiff's motion to remand, holding that removal was proper because the plaintiff's motion to adjudicate the lien fell within the scope of ERISA section 502(a)(1)(B) by requiring construction of the ERISA plan. Id. at 743. The court stated:
In ERISA § 502(a)(1)(B) terms, Musinski's claim may perhaps not be one "to recover benefits," and perhaps he might not be characterized as resisting Blue Cross' effort to enforce its rights under the Plan rather than seeking to enforce his own, but it is surely the case that in the language Rice adapted from Lingle, the "resolution of the [plaintiff's] state law claim ... require[s] construing [the ERISA plan.]"