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Shaw v. APWU Health Plan

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 8, 2019

LAURIE SHAW, Plaintiff,
v.
APWU HEALTH PLAN and LM GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR REMAND [7]

          STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On September 24, 2018, Plaintiff Laurie Shaw filed a complaint in state court against Defendants APWU Health Plan (“APWU”) and LM General Insurance Company (“LM General”). ECF 1-2 (Plaintiff's complaint).[1] She alleged breach of contract against LM General and sought injunctive relief against APWU. Id. at 20- 21. On November 17, 2018, Defendant APWU removed the case to federal court. ECF 1 (notice), 5 (order granting motion for leave to file removal petition nunc pro tunc). Plaintiff filed a motion for remand, arguing that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. ECF 7.

         The Court reviewed the briefs and finds that a hearing is unnecessary. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons below, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion for remand.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 29, 2015, Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident. ECF 1-2, PgID 17. Because she was an employee of the United States Postal Service, APWU initially paid her expenses related to the accident. Id. at 18. APWU provides benefits under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 8901, et seq. ("FEHBA"). Id. at 18.

         At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was covered by LM General's automobile insurance contract, and she submitted a claim to LM General. Id. at 17. LM General refused to pay. Its position-based on Michigan law-is that its obligation to pay benefits to Plaintiff is secondary to APWU's obligation to pay Plaintiff. ECF 1, PgID 3-4.

         On November 3, 2017, Plaintiff settled her third-party claims for approximately $47, 000. ECF 1-2, PgID 18. APWU asserted a lien on Plaintiff's third-party settlement, citing its reimbursement and subrogation rights under FEHBA.[2]Id. at 19. Plaintiff argues that LM General is liable for the full amount of the reimbursement claimed by APWU. Id. Plaintiff argues that LM General has breached the insurance contract by failing to pay her claim. Id. at 20. She also argues that APWU can assert its rights against LM General and seeks injunctive relief to prevent APWU from encumbering her third-party settlement. Id.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         "Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute which is not to be expanded by judicial decree." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (internal citations omitted).

         I. Removal of Cases Over Which Courts Have Original Jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1441

         The removal of civil actions statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, authorizes, inter alia, removal of cases over which federal courts have original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Federal district courts have original jurisdiction of all civil actions "arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         Federal arising-under jurisdiction does not encompass a FEHBA carrier's suit seeking reimbursement of the full amount paid for a beneficiary's health care. Empire Healthchoice Assurance, Inc. v. McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 683 (2006). "FEHBA itself provides for federal-court jurisdiction only in actions against the United States." Id.

         II. Officer Removal Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1)

         The officer removal statute authorizes removal in cases against "[t]he United States or any agency thereof or any officer (or any person acting under that officer) of the United States or of any agency thereof . . . for or relating to [an] act under color of such office[.]" 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). "Section 1442(a) . . . is a pure jurisdictional statute, seeking to do nothing more than grant district court jurisdiction over cases in which a federal officer is a defendant."[3]Mesa v. California, 489 U.S. 121, 136 (1989). "[I]t is the raising of a federal question in the officer's removal petition that constitutes the federal law under which the action against the federal officer arises for ...


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