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Dickerson v. Palisades Medical Center, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

September 24, 2013

ANNIE DICKERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
PALISADES MEDICAL CENTER, INC., et al., Defendants.

REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

MARK FALK, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to remand this case to state court. The motion is opposed. No argument was heard. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons that follow, it is respectfully recommended that Plaintiff's motion be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Annie Dickerson, is a licensed practical nurse. Defendant Palisades Medical Center, Inc. ("Palisades") is a health care facility. Defendant Donna Cahill ("Cahill") and Defendant Ruben D. Fernandez ("Fernandez") are employees of Palisades.[1] (Compl. ¶¶ 1-6.)

Plaintiff is a former employee of Palisades. Plaintiff claims that in April 2012, she "wrote up" two nurses for changing medical information in Palisades's computer system. According to Plaintiff, Palisades retaliated by requiring Plaintiff to work a double shift and then failing to compensate her for the time worked. Plaintiff subsequently filed a wage claim with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development ("DOL"). (Compl. ¶¶ 1-6.) Plaintiff alleges that in response to her wage claim, Palisades wrongfully accused her of stealing a narcotic drug, claimed that she falsified a medical record, suspended, and then ultimately terminated her employment. (Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.) Plaintiff further claims that Palisades made false representations to New Jersey's Board of Nursing in retaliation for Plaintiff applying for unemployment benefits. (Compl. ¶ 16.)

On April 24, 2013, Plaintiff filed a fifteen count Complaint in state court. Plaintiff brought claims for retaliatory discharge under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 34:19-1, et seq. ("CEPA") and a claim for violation of the New Jersey Wage Payment Law, N.J.S.A. § 34:11-4.1, et seq ("NJWPL"). Plaintiff also pleaded various state law causes of action, some sounding in tort, arising out of the same facts as Plaintiff's CEPA and NJWPL claims, including: common law wrongful discharge under Pierce v. Ortho Pharm. Corp., 417 A.2d 505 (1980); intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; unjust enrichment; breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and prima facie tort.

On May 28, 2013, Defendants removed the case to this Court stating that Plaintiff's claims are preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 141, et seq. ("LMRA"). Defendants argue that Plaintiff is a member of the Local 5030 Health Professionals and Allied Employees AFT/AFL-CIO ("the Union") and that her claims depend on an interpretation of the terms of a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between Palisades and the Union. (Defendants' Brief ("Def.'s Br.") 1-2.) Defendants contend that Plaintiff cannot defeat jurisdiction by simply casting her various state law claims as relating to CEPA or NJWPL. (Def.'s Br. 2.) Defendants maintain that Plaintiff's state law claims are substantially dependent on an analysis of the CBA. (Def.'s Br. 1.) On June 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand to state court, arguing that she has not alleged any federal causes of action and that her claims are not preempted because they do not require an interpretation of the CBA. (Plaintiff's Brief ("Pl.s Br.") 1.)

DISCUSSION

A. Removal Standard

The federal removal statute provides that "[e]xcept as otherwise provided by Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed... to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). "[T]he party asserting federal jurisdiction in a removal case bears the burden of showing, at all stages of the litigation, that the case is properly before the federal court." Frederico v. Home Depot , 507 F.3d 188, 193 (3d Cir. 2007). Removal is strictly construed and all doubts are resolved in favor of remand. See Samuel-Bassett v. Kia Motors Am., Inc. , 357 F.3d 392, 396 (3d Cir. 2004).

B. Federal Jurisdiction

A district court has original jurisdiction over cases that "arise under" federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1441(a). Pursuant to the "well-pleaded complaint" rule, a plaintiff is ordinarily entitled to remain in state court so long as its complaint does not allege a federal claim on its face. See Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Contr. Laborers Vac. Tr. for S. Ca. , 463 U.S. 1, 10 (1983). Federal jurisdiction cannot be established by a federal defense or by challenging the merits of a claim. See Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams , 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). However, an exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule is the doctrine of complete preemption. See, e.g., Lazorko v. Pa. Hosp. , 237 F.3d 242, 248 (3d Cir. 2000) ("One exception to [the well-pleaded complaint rule] is for matters that Congress has so completely preempted that any civil complaint that falls within this category is necessarily federal in character."). The doctrine of complete preemption "creates removal jurisdiction even though no federal question appears on the face of the plaintiff's complaint." Id.

Defendants contend that despite the absence of a federal claim in the Complaint, federal jurisdiction is present by virtue of the complete preemption of Plaintiff's claims by Section 301 of the LMRA. Section 301(a) of the LMRA provides for federal jurisdiction over "[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization...." 29 U.S.C. § 185 (a); see Textron v. United Automobile , 523 U.S. 653, 656-57 (1998). Section 301 preemption exists for "[1] claims founded directly on rights created by collective bargaining agreements, and [2]... claims substantially dependent upon an analysis of a collective bargaining agreement." Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc. , 486 U.S. 399, 404 (1988) (alterations added); see Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Lueck , 471 U.S. 202, 220 (1985). Preemption is not lightly inferred. See Voilas v. General Motors Corp. , 170 F.3d 367, 375 n.1 (3d Cir. 1999). Preemption does not arise simply because a collective bargaining agreement may be involved in a dispute. See Lingle , 486 U.S. at 412; see also e.g., Bonilla v. Starwood Hotels Resorts Worldwide, Inc. , 407 F.Supp.2d 1107, 1111 (C.D. Cal. 2005) ("If the claim is plainly based on state law, Section 301 preemption is not mandated simply because the defendant refers to the CBA in mounting a defense."). Indeed, if the facts of a given case could give rise to an action under a CBA as well as a separate state law claim, preemption does not attach. See Lingle , 486 U.S. at ...


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