The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge
This case is before the court for ruling on the Motion to Remand Case to the Circuit Court of Macon County, Illinois (#29) filed by Plaintiffs, Ronald A. Blankenship, Lori Blankenship, Ronald R. Tarter, Sharon Tarter, Gerald A. McMurray, Michael Edward Jones, Judith Elaine Jones, Harold E. Murrow, Cleda A. Murrow, Gene R. Andrighetti, Alyce Andrighetti, Jo Ann Durbin, as personal representative of the estate of Wayne Durbin, deceased, Gene E. Davis, Roger Brent Stirrett, as personal representative of the estate of Roger J. Stirrett, deceased, Linda L. Wood, as personal representative of the estate of Noel Evans, deceased, Michael J. Drnjevic, and Cheryl Drnjevic. This court has carefully considered Plaintiffs' Motion, Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Support (#30), and the Memorandum in Opposition to Motion to Remand (#51) filed by Defendants Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc., Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC, Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., and The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company (Firestone Defendants). Following this court's careful and thorough consideration of the issues raised and the documents provided, Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand Case to the Circuit Court of Macon County, Illinois (#29) is GRANTED.
On July 20, 2006, Plaintiffs filed a 44-count Complaint at Law in the circuit court of Macon County (Case No. 2006-L-111) against the Firestone Defendants, Ashland, Inc., Shell Canada, Ltd., Shell Oil Company, Barton Solvents, Inc., Chemcentral Corporation, Chemcentral Ohio Valley Corporation, Chevron U.S.A., Inc., ConocoPhillips Company, Drake Petroleum Company, Fisher Scientific Company, Texaco Inc., Huntsman Petrochemical Corporation, and Kerr-McGee Refining Corporation. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that Plaintiffs Ronald Blankenship, Ronald Tarter, Gerald McMurray, Michael Jones, Harold Murrow, Gene Andrighetti, Wayne Durbin, Gene E. Davis, Roger J. Stirrett, Noel Evans and Michael Drnjevic formerly worked for the Firestone Defendants at the Firestone facilities in Bloomington and Decatur, Illinois. Three of these employees, Wayne Durbin, Roger Stirrett and Noel Evans, have died and are represented by personal representatives of their estates. Plaintiffs Lori Blankenship, Sharon Tarter, Judith Jones, Cleda Murrow, Alyce Andrighetti, and Cheryl Drnjevic are each married to one of the Plaintiff employees. According to the Complaint, Defendants Ashland, Inc., Shell Canada, Ltd., Shell Oil Company, Barton Solvents, Inc., Chemcentral Corporation, Chemcentral Ohio Valley Corporation, Chevron U.S.A. Inc., ConocoPhillips Company, Drake Petroleum Company, Fisher Scientific Company, Texaco Inc., Huntsman Petrochemical Corporation, and Kerr-McGee Refining Corporation sold various solvents to the Firestone Defendants. Plaintiffs alleged that the Plaintiff employees were exposed to benzene and benzene containing solvents provided by these Defendants to the Firestone Defendants. Plaintiffs alleged that this exposure resulted in severe injuries to the Plaintiff employees.
In Counts I, II, and III of their Complaint, against the Firestone Defendants, Plaintiffs alleged fraudulent concealment, intentional misrepresentation, and battery. Plaintiffs alleged that the Firestone Defendants knew that benzene was dangerous and fraudulently concealed information regarding the danger or intentionally misrepresented the existence and nature of the hazards associated with benzene to the Plaintiff employees. Plaintiffs alleged that the Firestone Defendants committed battery by exposing the Plaintiff employees to benzene. Plaintiffs alleged that, as a result, they suffered personal injury and disability. Counts IV through XLII alleged negligence, breach of implied warranty and strict liability against the remaining Defendants, respectively. In Count XLIII, against all Defendants, Plaintiffs Durbin, Stirrett, and Woods alleged a survival action. In Count XLIV, against all Defendants, the Plaintiff wives alleged loss of consortium.
On August 24, 2006, the Firestone Defendants filed a Notice of Removal (#1) in this court. All Defendants consented to removal. The Firestone Defendants alleged that this court has jurisdiction over the claims in this case based on the doctrine of complete preemption. Specifically, the Firestone Defendants contended that Plaintiffs' claims implicate certain collective bargaining agreements between Firestone and the union that represented the Plaintiff employees. The Firestone Defendants argued that, under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a), federal district courts exercise exclusive jurisdiction over disputes involving collective bargaining agreements. The Firestone Defendants noted that, where resolution of a state law claim depends on the interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement, that claim is preempted by the "complete preemption doctrine" under section 301. The Firestone Defendants argued that Plaintiffs' claims necessarily require the interpretation and application of the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and are preempted, relying on Medlen v. Estates of Myers, 2005 WL 3307313, at *2-3 (N.D. Ohio 2005), and Dixon v. Borgwarner Diversified Transmission Prods., Inc., 2004 WL 801270, at *4 (S.D. Ind. 2004). Alternatively, the Firestone Defendants contended that federal jurisdiction is proper and necessary based on the federal questions and interests involved in determining whether the Firestone Defendants breached the collective bargaining agreements, citing Grable & Sons Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312-13 (2005) and Bennett v. Southwest Airlines Co., 2006 WL 1987821, at *2 (N.D. Ill. 2006).
On September 7, 2006, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand Case to the Circuit Court of Macon County, Illinois (#29) and a Memorandum of Law in Support (#30). Plaintiffs argued that their claims are wholly independent of any collective bargaining agreements. They contended that, accordingly, the LMRA does not completely preempt those claims, and no substantial federal question exists to provide federal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs noted that they pled no federal claims in their Complaint, nor did they expressly refer to the collective bargaining agreements on which the Firestone Defendants rely to support federal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs stated that they certainly alleged no claim for breach of the collective bargaining agreements. Plaintiffs argued that no federal subject matter jurisdiction exists, and the case must therefore be remanded to the circuit court of Macon County. Plaintiffs also requested that this court award them the costs and expenses they have incurred in seeking remand.
On September 21, 2006, the Firestone Defendants filed their Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (#51) and supporting exhibits (#53). The Firestone Defendants insist that this court has jurisdiction and, therefore, the case was properly removed to this court.
"[R]emoval is proper over any action that could have been filed originally in federal court."
Tylka v. Gerber Prods. Co., 211 F.3d 445, 448 (7th Cir. 2000); Orbitz, LLC v. Worldspan, L.P., 425 F. Supp. 2d 929, 931 (N.D. Ill 2006). "The party seeking removal has the burden of establishing the jurisdiction of the district court." In re Application of County Collector of County of Winnebago, Ill., 96 F.3d 890, 895 (7th Cir. 1996); see also Samuel Trading, LLC v. Diversified Group, Inc., 420 F. Supp. 2d 885, 889 (N.D. Ill. 2006). The removal statute should be construed narrowly, and any doubts about jurisdiction should be resolved in favor of remand. Doe v. Allied-Signal, Inc., 985 F.2d 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993); Orbitz, LLC, 425 F. Supp. 2d at 931. Where the basis of removal is federal question jurisdiction, the plaintiffs' cause of action must "aris[e] under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331; Orbitz, LLC, 425 F. Supp. 2d at 932.
"The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the 'well-pleaded complaint rule.'" Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). This rule provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392. Under this rule, the plaintiff is the master of the claim and may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392. The doctrine of complete preemption, however, exists as an "independent corollary" to the well-pleaded complaint rule. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393. Under this doctrine, "if a federal cause of action completely preempts a state cause of action any complaint that comes within the scope of the federal cause of action necessarily 'arises under' federal law." Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 393, quoting Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Tr. for S. Cal., 463 U.S.1, 24 (1983).
As noted, the Firestone Defendants argue that this court has jurisdiction over this case based upon section 301 of the LMRA. Section 301 provides that "[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees . . . may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties." 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). Claims implicating Section 301 are completely preempted. See, e.g., Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck, 471 U.S. 202, 209-11 (1985). "Section 301 governs claims founded directly on rights created by collective-bargaining agreements, and also claims 'substantially dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining agreement.'" Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 394, quoting Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO v. Hechler, 481 U.S. 851, 859 n.3 (1987); see also Loewen Group Int'l, Inc. v. Haberichter, 65 F.3d 1417, 1421 (7th Cir. 1995). "[I]f the resolution of a state-law claim depends upon the meaning of a collective-bargaining agreement, the application of state law (which might lead to inconsistent results since there could be as many state-law principles as there are States) is pre-empted and federal labor-law principles--necessarily uniform throughout the Nation--must be employed to resolve the dispute." Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 405-06 (1988). However, the Supreme Court has stated that ...