United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
KENNETH BUIE, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate of HELENA BUIE, Plaintiff,
MAUL EXCAVATING, INC., DANIEL MAUL, Individually and as President of MAUL EXCAVATING, INC., and UNKNOWN DEFENDANTS, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE United States District Judge
before the Court is the Motion to Remand filed by Plaintiff
Kenneth Buie, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate
of Helena Buie (Doc. 10). Defendants filed a response (Doc.
20). For the following reasons, the motion is
originally filed suit against Defendants Maul Excavating,
Inc. and Daniel Maul in the Circuit Court of the Third
Judicial Circuit, Madison County, Illinois alleging two
counts of tortious interference with a contract (Doc. 1-3).
In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants hired him
through the Carpenters' Union. Pursuant to a contract
between Plaintiff and the Carpenter's Union, a portion of
Plaintiff's wages were to be withheld by Defendants for
Plaintiff's health insurance. The health insurance
covered Plaintiff and his wife. However, after Plaintiff
began working for Defendants, his wife was denied medical
treatment and testing due to Defendants' failure to pay
funds withheld from Plaintiff's wages to the
alleges that as a result of Defendants' failure to pay
the funds to the union, his wife did not receive the medical
testing she needed and passed away. Plaintiff further alleges
that Defendants breach their fiduciary duty by failing to
timely and adequately make payments to the Carpenters'
Union on Plaintiff's behalf. Plaintiff asserts that his
wife's death was a direct and proximate cause of
Defendants breach of fiduciary duty. Defendants removed the
matter to this Court, asserting that Plaintiff's tortious
interference claims are governed and preempted by the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. §
1001, et seq. (“ERISA”).
civil action brought in a state court of which the district
courts of the United States have original jurisdiction may be
removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district
court of the United States for the district or division
embracing the place where such action is pending.” 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a). The removal statute is construed
narrowly, and any doubts concerning removal are to be
resolved in favor of remand. Doe v. Allied-Signal,
Inc., 985 F.2s 908, 911 (7th Cir. 1993).
determine whether removal is proper under § 1441(a),
courts generally apply the “well-pleaded
complaint” rule, which provides that a defendant may
not remove a case to federal court unless the plaintiff's
Complaint establishes that the case ‘arises under'
federal law. See Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482
U.S. 386, 399, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987). An
exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule exists, however,
where Congress intends federal law to control so completely
in a particular subject area that all claims in that area are
automatically characterized as federal in nature. Aetna
Health Inc. v. Davila, 542 U.S. 200, 208, 124 S.Ct.
2488, 159 L.Ed.2d 312 (2004).
context of ERISA, a party's state law claims involving an
ERISA plan may be subject to both “complete
preemption” and “conflict preemption.”
“Complete preemption” is a doctrine of federal
subject matter jurisdiction, while “conflict
preemption” is a defense to state law claims. See
Rice v. Panchal, 65 F.3d 637, 639 (7th Cir. 1995). Under
complete preemption, “federal subject matter
jurisdiction exists if the complaint concerns an area of law
‘completely preempted' by federal law, even if the
complaint does not mention a federal basis of
jurisdiction.” Speciale v. Seybold, 147 F.3d
612, 615 (7th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 525 U.S.
1017, 119 S.Ct. 542, 142 L.Ed.2d 450 (1998). By contrast, if
a plaintiff's state law claim is only subject to the
defense of conflict preemption, ERISA preemption will not
serve as a basis for removal. See id.
scope of complete preemption is fairly narrow and requires
the Court to determine whether a plaintiff's state law
claims can be re-characterized as claims falling under the
civil enforcement provisions of ERISA § 502(a). See
Rice, 65 F.3d at 642. The relevant portion of §
502(a) provides that a participant or beneficiary of an ERISA
plan may bring a civil action “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 plan.” 29 U.S.C. §
Aetna Health Inc. v. Davila, the Supreme Court held
that a state-law claim is deemed to be a preempted federal
claim under ERISA Section 502(a)(1) if: (1) the plaintiff
complains about being denied benefits to which he is entitled
only because of the terms of an ERISA-regulated plan; and (2)
the plaintiff does not allege the violation of any state or
federal legal duty independent of ERISA or the plan.
Davila, 542 U.S. at 210, 124 S.Ct. 2488. Here,
Plaintiff's tortious interference claims are preempted
under Davila's two-part framework, At its core,
Plaintiff's claim is that his wife was denied benefits to
which she was entitled under his union Plan because
Defendants interfered with his contract. Thus, Plaintiff
could have brought his state law tortious interference claims
under ERISA's civil enforcement provision. See, e.g.,
Maciosek v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wis.,
930 F.2d 536, 540 (7th Cir. 1991). Moreover, Plaintiff does
not allege the violation of any state or federal legal duty
independent of ERISA or his union Plan. The breach he alleges
is Defendants' alleged failure to timely and adequately
make health insurance payments per the Plan, to the
Carpenters' Union on Plaintiff's behalf. Accordingly,
Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is denied.