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K.B. v. Methodist Healthcare - Memphis Hospitals

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 11, 2019

K.B., by and through her natural parent, Jennifer Qassis; Lillian Knox-Bender, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Methodist Healthcare - Memphis Hospitals, dba Methodist Hospital and Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: June 18, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis. No. 2:17-cv-02391-Jon Phipps McCalla, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          James E. Blount, IV, BLOUNT LAW FIRM, PLLC, Collierville, Tennessee, for Appellants.

          Buckner P. Wellford, BAKER, DONELSON, BEARMAN, CALDWELL & BERKOWITZ, PC, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          James E. Blount, IV, BLOUNT LAW FIRM, PLLC, Collierville, Tennessee, for Appellants.

          Buckner P. Wellford, Matthew S. Mulqueen, BAKER, DONELSON, BEARMAN, CALDWELL & BERKOWITZ, PC, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: McKEAGUE, THAPAR, and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          Thapar, Circuit Judge

         The only rule without an exception is that every rule has an exception. The usual rule is that a plaintiff gets to choose where to sue. Lillian Knox-Bender chose Tennessee state court. But the Supreme Court carved out an exception to the usual rule when it recognized complete preemption under ERISA. So, after the discovery of a $100 medical insurance payment, Knox-Bender found her claim removed to federal court. Because the ERISA preemption exception does not apply here, the usual rule prevails. We reverse.

         I.

         When Lillian Knox-Bender suffered injuries from a car accident, she sought medical treatment at Methodist Healthcare. Methodist billed her over $8, 000 for the treatment. Three insurance plans made payments to Methodist on Knox-Bender's behalf: her employer-sponsored healthcare plan, her automobile insurance plan, and her husband's healthcare plan. Knox-Bender says that the insurance plans had already agreed with Methodist on the price of her care. She claims that, despite this agreement, Methodist overcharged her. And she alleges that this was common practice for Methodist. So she and other named plaintiffs, along with a putative class of other patients, sued. They chose to sue in Tennessee state court.

         But they did not stay in state court. During discovery, Methodist learned that Knox-Bender's husband's healthcare plan was an ERISA plan. The ERISA plan covered $100 of her $8, 000 bill. Despite the small contribution, Methodist removed the case to federal court claiming complete preemption under ERISA. The district court agreed with Methodist, applying an exception to the rule that the plaintiff chooses her forum. It denied Knox-Bender's motion to remand and ultimately entered judgment in favor of Methodist. We ...


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