United States District Court, D. Colorado
CENTURA HEALTH CORPORATION, PORTERCARE ADVENTIST HEALTH SYSTEM, d/b/a Littleton Adventist Hospital, Plaintiffs,
DEBRA A. AGNEW, MYR GROUP, INC., MYR GROUP HEALTH PLAN, ELAP SERVICES, LLC, and PROFESSIONAL BENEFIT ADMINSTRATORS, INC., Defendants.
ORDER ON MOTION TO REMAND
Brooke Jackson, United States District Judge
R. Brooke Jackson This case was originally filed in the
Arapahoe County District Court (No. 2017CV31173). Defendants
MYR Group, Inc., MYR Group Health Plan, and ELAP Services,
LLP removed the case to this Court based on federal question
jurisdiction. ECF No. 3 at 3. Defendants argue that
plaintiffs' state law claims are preempted by the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq.
Id. The case is before the Court on plaintiffs
Centura Health Corporation's and Portercare Adventist
Health System's (collectively, the
“Hospital”) motion to remand. ECF No. 27. For the
reasons stated herein, the motion is GRANTED.
case stems from a dispute over a patient's obligation to
pay a medical bill. The patient, Debra Agnew, underwent a
“bladder sling” surgery at the Littleton
Adventist Hospital in 2012. ECF No. 3 at 5. Before undergoing
surgery Ms. Agnew signed a “patient-hospital
contract” in which she acknowledged full financial
responsibility for, and agreed to pay, all of the charges
from the Hospital that were not otherwise paid by her health
insurance or other payor. Id. at 8. The hospital
charged Ms. Agnew $21, 166.70 for the surgery. Id.
at 12. The Hospital determined this amount based on its
“Chargemaster, ” a comprehensive listing of the
hospital's prices for all of its billable services and
supplies. Id. Ms. Agnew's insurance plan paid
part of the bill, leaving an outstanding balance of $15,
Agnew is insured by defendant MYR Group Health Plan
(“the Plan”), which is an ERISA Group Welfare
Plan. ECF No. 1-6 at 2. The Plan is established and
maintained by Ms. Agnew's husband's employer, which
is a subsidiary company of defendant MYR Group. Id.
Defendant Professional Benefit Administrators Incorporation
(“PBA”) is a third-party administrator for the
Plan. Id. at 3. Defendant ELAP is a named fiduciary
to the Plan and serves as its designated decision maker.
Hospital asserts that ELAP “caused Ms. Agnew and many
other patients not to pay the full amount of their hospital
bills” despite the patients' being contractually
obligated to pay those amounts. ECF No. 3 at 4. After Ms.
Agnew failed to pay the outstanding balance on her bill, the
Hospital alleges that ELAP “caused Ms. Agnew to
file” a suit in Arapahoe District Court against the
Hospital to avoid paying her outstanding bill. Id.
The parties entered mediation and the case was dismissed
without prejudice. Id. at 14. However, after Ms.
Agnew continued refusing to pay her outstanding bill, the
Hospital filed the present lawsuit in Arapahoe County
District Court. Id.
initial complaint, the Hospital sued only Ms. Agnew. However,
the Hospital added ELAP, MYR, the Plan, and PBA as defendants
when it filed the First Amended Complaint on January 31,
2018. ECF No. 3. In this operative complaint, the Hospital
raises two claims against Ms. Agnew alone: (1) breach of
contract and (2) claim on account stated. Id. at
17-18. The Hospital's third claim for declaratory
judgment applies to all defendants. Id. at 14.
the Hospital filed its suit, defendants agreed to pay the
full amount claimed under the patient-hospital contract,
including the outstanding balance, prejudgment interest, and
reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. Id.
Nonetheless, the Hospital maintains that ELAP, PBA, MYR, and
the Plan continue to (1) cause other patients with identical
contracts to refuse to pay the amounts due; (2) assert that
they are entitled to unilaterally dictate what is due under
substantially identical contracts; (3) assert that contracts
like Ms. Agnew's are invalid and unenforceable; and (4)
force the Hospital to litigate the validity of its contracts
while ultimately agreeing to pay the full amount due to avoid
binding judicial determinations. Id. at 15.
result, the Hospital seeks a declaratory judgment against all
defendants construing the validity of the patient-hospital
contract and declaring that (1) the contracts incorporate
Chargemaster rates; (2) a patient's promise to pay all
charges refers to the hospital's prices as set forth in
its Chargemaster; (3) the phrase, “all charges of the
hospital” refers to the Chargemaster, not to an open or
undefined term; and (4) the terms of Ms. Agnew's
patient-hospital contract and all other substantially
identical contracts require the patient to pay all charges
not otherwise paid by health insurance or other payor.
Id. at 15-17 (citing C.R.S. § 13-51-101, et
MYR, ELAP, and the Plan filed their Notice of Removal on
March 9, 2018. ECF No. 1 at 1; ECF No. 1-5 at 2. In their
Notice of Removal these defendants invoked federal question
jurisdiction because “Plaintiffs' claims are
completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974 (‘ERISA'), 29 U.S.C.
§§ 1001, et seq.” ECF No. 1 at 3. Defendants
Agnew and PBA did not join in the Notice, nor did they file a
consent to the removal. The Hospital responded with the
pending motion to remand on April 9, 2018. ECF No. 27. The
Hospital contends that defendants' Notice of Removal is
procedurally defective because not all defendants consented
to removal, and that the Court should remand because it does
not have removal jurisdiction. Id. On April 26,
2018, the same day that defendants responded in opposition to
the motion to remand, Ms. Agnew and PBA filed their consent
to removing the case to federal court. ECF No. 33. at 6-7.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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).
Hospital raises both a procedural and a substantive reason
the case should be remanded to state court pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c). It contends that (a) defendants did
not unanimously consent to removal and (b) removal
jurisdiction does not exist. ECF No. 27 at 1.
Hospital also seeks attorneys' fees and costs on the
grounds that there was not an objectively ...