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Chapman v. Revclaims, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

February 14, 2018




         BEFORE THE COURT is Plaintiffs Charles E. Chapman, Margaret L. Chapman, and Alexander C. Chapman's Motion [8] to Remand. This Motion is fully briefed. The Court, having considered the pleadings on file, the record as a whole, and relevant legal authority, finds that because there was a procedural defect in the removal of this case, remand is required.


         This case arises out of “catastrophic injuries” suffered by Plaintiff Alexander C. Chapman (“Alexander”), a minor at the time, in an automobile accident that occurred on May 26, 2014, in the State of Louisiana.[1] Am. Compl. [1-2] at 6. On July 18, 2014, an Order Appointing Co-Guardians and Granting Other Relief was entered in the Chancery Court of Harrison County, Mississippi, First Judicial District, Case Number 24CH1:14cv1815-JP, appointing Plaintiffs Charles E. Chapman and Margret L. Chapman (“Plaintiffs”) Guardians of Plaintiff A.C.C.[2] State Court Record [2] at 17-20. The Order granted the Chapmans the authority to retain counsel and “to take such action and seek relief and recovery of damages, benefits and such other remedies which may accrue for said Minor Child's injuries, losses, disabilities and damages.” Id. at 18. Plaintiffs filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against “third parties” and on or around November 18, 2015, settled these claims. Notice of Removal [1] at 4.

         On February 13, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint for Interpleader, Injunctive and Other Relief in the Chancery Court case. Am. Compl. [1-2] at 4-27. Plaintiffs named RevClaims, LLC, Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, United Health Care Services, Inc., OPTUM, Lowe's Welfare Plan, and John Does 1-5 as Defendants. Plaintiffs tendered $167, 511.89 into the registry of the Chancery Court and sought a judicial determination of whether any of Defendants held a valid claim to the any of the interpleaded funds, and if not sought return of the funds to Plaintiffs.[3] Id. Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint on March 7, 2017. State Court Record [2] at 64-91.

         Defendants United Health Care, Inc., OPTUM, and Lowe's Welfare Plan (“Removal Defendants”) removed the case to this Court on March 15, 2017, invoking federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), specifically, claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. (“ERISA”). Notice of Removal [1] at 1-7. The Notice of Removal asserts that OPTUM was served on February 14, 2017, and was the first Defendant to be served.[4] Id. at 2. The Removal Defendants stated that they “procured the consent of each of the other defendants in this lawsuit to this removal.” Id.

         Plaintiffs filed a Motion [8] to Remand arguing that the Removal was procedurally defective, including the failure of all Defendants to file written joinders or written consent to the removal, and that ERISA does not preempt their Chancery Court Interpleader case. Mot. to Remand [8] at 1-4.

         The Removal Defendants filed a Response [15] maintaining that removal was proper because each Defendant that had been served with process consented to the removal, Resp. in Opp'n [15] at 2-3, and that the Notice of Removal contained a “short plain statement demonstrating entitlement to this removal, ” id. at 4. The Removal Defendants contend that Plaintiffs' claims for “unjust enrichment” are preempted by ERISA and thus removable, citing as authority Carducci v. Aetna U.S. Healthcare, 204 F.Supp.2d 796 (D.N.J. 2002).


         A. The Removal Procedure

         28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) provides for the removal of civil actions brought in a state court of which the district courts have original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Section 1446 sets forth the procedure for removing a civil action to federal court:

(a) Generally.C A defendant or defendants desiring to remove any civil action from a State court shall file in the district court of the United States for the district and division within which such action is pending a notice of removal signed pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal, together with a copy of all process, pleadings, and orders served upon such defendant or defendants in such action.
(b) Requirements; Generally.C
(2) (A) When a civil action is removed solely under section 1441(a), all defendants who have been properly joined and served must join in or ...

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