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Patel v. Aetna

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

May 23, 2017

GRETCHEN PATEL, Plaintiff,
v.
AETNA, et al., Defendants.

          Michael H. Watson Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION.

          KIMBERLY A. JOLSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. (Doc. 12). For the reasons set forth below, the Court RECOMMENDS that the Motion to Remand be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a State Tested Nursing Assistant (“STNA”) licensed in Ohio, who claims that she was improperly denied payment for care she rendered to her mother, Barbara Nagel, as a provider for Defendants, each of which does business as “aetna.” (See Doc. 7). Although Plaintiff filed this case in the Court of Common Pleas for Franklin County, Ohio, certain Defendants filed a Notice of Removal in this Court pursuant to its diversity and federal question jurisdiction. (See Doc. 1). Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand (Doc. 12), which is now ripe for consideration. (See Doc. 17 (Opposition); Doc. 18 (Reply)).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The basis for removing a state court case to federal court “must be disclosed upon the face of the complaint, unaided by the answer or by the petition for removal.” Gully v. First Nat'l Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 113 (1936); see also Powell v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 14-155-HRW, 2015 WL 2063966, at *3 (E.D. Ky. Apr. 30, 2015) (noting that “jurisdiction is determined at the time of removal”). Thus, the Court may not consider defenses in deciding if a case may be removed. See Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987); Loftis v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 342 F.3d 509, 515 (6th Cir. 2003). Because removing a case interferes with the state court's jurisdiction, removal statutes are construed narrowly. See Long v. Bando Mfg. Co. of Am., Inc., 201 F.3d 754, 757 (6th Cir. 2000) (stating “removal statutes are to be narrowly construed” because “they implicate federalism concerns”).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff's claims are for unjust enrichment (Count I), declaratory judgment (Count II), further relief under Ohio Revised Code § 2721.09 (Count III), further relief in equity (Count IV), and bad faith with damages (Count V). This Court examines whether it has diversity jurisdiction or federal question jurisdiction over this case.

         A. Diversity Jurisdiction

         The requirements for federal jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship are set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Diversity is satisfied if no plaintiff and no defendant are citizens of the same state, and the amount in controversy is $75, 000 or greater. See 3LI Consultant Grp. v. Catholic Health Partners, No. 1:15-cv-455, 2016 WL 246202, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 21, 2016). Whether Plaintiff will prevail on her claims is irrelevant for the purposes of determining the amount in controversy. See Garza v. Bettcher Indus., Inc., 752 F.Supp. 753, 763 (E.D. Mich. 1990). It is sufficient if a fair reading of the Complaint demonstrates that, if Plaintiff is successful, it is more likely than not that her damages will exceed the required amount. Id.

         1. Complete Diversity

         According to the briefs, the issue of whether complete diversity exists concerns only Defendant Aetna Better Health, Inc. (“ABH”). The removing Defendants acknowledge that both Plaintiff and ABH are citizens of Ohio, but they argue that ABH must be ignored for diversity purposes because it “was fraudulently and improperly joined for purposes of attempting to defeat federal diversity jurisdiction.” (Doc. 17 at 1, 3).

         When fraudulent joinder is alleged, the Court may “pierce the pleadings” to consider “summary-judgment-type evidence, ” which it evaluates in a manner “akin to that of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, ” but “is arguably even more deferential.” Walker v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 443 F. App'x 946, 954 (6th Cir. 2011). Construing any contested issues of fact in Plaintiff's favor, the Court must determine if the removing Defendants have satisfied their burden of demonstrating that Plaintiff has no colorable cause of action against ABH. Id. at 951. Stated differently, the Court must determine if the removing Defendants have demonstrated that there is no reasonable basis “for predicting that the state law might impose ...


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