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Fink v. Sumerall

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 21, 2017

GARY P. FINK, Plaintiff,
RAY SUMERALL, and MV PUBLIC TRANSPORATION, INC., a California Corporation, Defendants.


          R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff moves to remand this case to the District Court for the City and County of Denver [ECF No. 13]. The motion is granted.


         Gary Fink works as a driver for MV Public Transportation, Inc. (“MV Transportation”). ECF No. 1-2 at ¶ 7. Mr. Fink and other MV Transportation employees, including Reynaldo Sumrall, [1] are members of United Service Workers Union, Local 455. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 7-8. The labor union and MV Transportation are parties to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”), which delineates their respective rights and responsibilities. See Id. ¶ 7. In August 2016 Mr. Sumrall allegedly jabbed Mr. Fink in his side, causing him pain and aggravating his Crohn's disease. ECF No. 1-2 at ¶¶ 9-13.

         Mr. Fink filed suit against Mr. Sumrall and MV Transportation in the Denver District Court on December 23, 2016. Id. at 1. Mr. Fink's complaint asserts three claims for relief: assault, battery, and negligent supervision. Id. ¶¶ 16-41. Defendants received notice of this action in January 2017. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 2-3.

         Defendants filed a notice of removal with this Court on January 31, 2017. ECF No. 1. Defendants argue that although the complaint raises only state law claims and the parties are not diverse, they may remove to federal court plaintiff's negligent supervision claim under the “complete preemption” doctrine and section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”). Id. ¶ 9. The Court would then have supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's other two state law claims. Id. ¶ 14.

         Plaintiff responded with the pending motion to remand. ECF No. 13. Plaintiff contends that the complete preemption doctrine does not apply here, so the case should be remanded back to the state court. Id.


         A civil action filed in a state court may be removed to federal court if the dispute “aris[es] under” federal law. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441(a). “Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and, as such, must have a statutory basis to exercise jurisdiction.” Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002). “[R]emoval statutes[] are to be narrowly construed in light of our constitutional role as limited tribunals.” Pritchett v. Office Depot, Inc., 420 F.3d 1090, 1095 (10th Cir. 2005). The removing party bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 251 F.3d 1284, 1290 (10th Cir. 2001).

         Typically a federal court has original jurisdiction to hear a dispute only if a question of federal law appears on the face of the well-pleaded complaint. See Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908). Thus, a defense based on the preemptive effect of a federal law usually will not provide a basis for removal. See id.

         There is, however, a corollary to the well-pleaded complaint rule: the complete preemption doctrine. 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.” Franchise Tax Bd. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 24 (1983). The Tenth Circuit has clarified that “complete preemption” should be understood

not as a crude measure of the breadth of the preemption (in the ordinary sense) of a state law by a federal law, but rather as a description of the specific situation in which a federal law not only preempts a state law to some degree but also substitutes a federal cause of action for the state cause of action, thereby manifesting Congress's intent to permit removal.

Schmeling v. NORDAM, 97 F.3d 1336, 1342 (10th Cir. 1996). Accordingly, “removal based on preemption is permissible only if federal law provides a replacement cause of action. Id. at 1343.

         Here, defendants argue that section 301 of the LMRA completely preempts plaintiff's negligent supervision cause of action due to the CBA between MV Transportation and its employees' union. Section 301 provides that any federal district court may hear suits based on the breach of a contract between an employer and a labor union. 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). The Supreme Court has read this provision expansively, holding that “the preemptive force of § 301 is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of action for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization.” Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 23 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court later extended section 301's preemptive effect beyond ...

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