Ansley v. Professional Resources Management, Inc., et al.
OPINION AND ORDER directing as follows: (1) Plaintiff's 13 Motion to Remand is GRANTED; (2) This case is remanded to the Circuit Court of Bullock County, Alabama; (3) The Clerk is DIRECTED to take the necessary steps to effect the remand. Signed by Honorable Judge W. Harold Albritton, III on 10/25/13. (Certified copy of this order mailed to Clerk, Circuit Court of Bullock County Alabama)(scn, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
ALISA ANSLEY, Administrator of the
Estate of JAMES W. ANSLEY, deceased,
MANAGEMENT, INC. d/b/a BULLOCK
COUNTY HOSPITAL; IRENEO V.
DOMINGO, JR., M.D.; THE HEALTH
CARE AUTHORITY FOR BAPTIST
HEALTH, AN AFFILIATE OF UAB
HEALTH SYSTEM, d/b/a BAPTIST
MEDICAL CENTER SOUTH, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:13-cv-00619-WHA
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This cause is before the court on a Motion to Remand filed on September 10, 2013 by the
Plaintiff, Alisa Ansley, as administrator of the Estate of James W. Ansley, deceased.
The Plaintiff originally filed a Complaint in this case on July 19, 2013 in the Circuit
Court of Bullock County, Alabama. In the original Complaint, the Plaintiff brought claims
against Defendant Inmed Group d/b/a Bullock County Hospital and several fictitious defendants
for medical negligence and wrongful death (Count One), vicarious liability (Count Two), the
Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (“EMTALA”) (Count Three), and
nondelegable duty (Count Four). The Plaintiff also brought a claim against Defendant Dr. Ireneo
Domingo and several fictitious defendants for medical negligence and wrongful death (Count
Five). Finally, the Plaintiff brought claims against Baptist Health Center d/b/a Baptist Medical
Center South and several fictitious defendants for medical negligence and wrongful death (Count
Six), vicarious liability for Drs. Moorehouse, Sullivan, and Kim (Count Seven), spoliation of
evidence (Count Eight), breach of contract (Count Nine), and nondelegable duty (Count Ten).
On August 29, 2013, the Defendants removed the case to this court on the basis of
federal-question jurisdiction related to EMTALA. That same day, Baptist Health Center filed its
Answer. On September 4, 2013, Inmed Group and Dr. Domingo filed their Answers. On
September 6, 2013, the Plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint.
In Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint, she dropped her federal claim under EMTALA
and brings state law claims against Professional Resource Management, Inc. d/b/a Bullock
County Hospital and several fictitious defendants for medical negligence and wrongful death
(Count One), vicarious liability (Count Two), and nondelegable duty (Count Three). The
Plaintiff also brings claims against Dr. Domingo and several fictitious defendants for medical
negligence and wrongful death (Count Four). Finally, the Plaintiff brings claims against The
Health Care Authority for Baptist Health, an Affiliate of UAB Health System, d/b/a Baptist
Medical Center South and several fictitious defendants for medical negligence and wrongful
death (Count Five), vicarious liability for Drs. Moorehouse, Sullivan, and Kim (Count Six),
spoliation of evidence (Count Seven), breach of contract (Count Eight), and nondelegable duty
For reasons to be discussed, the Motion to Remand is due to be GRANTED.
II. MOTION TO REMAND STANDARD
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of Am., 511 U.S. 375 (1994); Burns v. Windsor Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (1994); Wymbs v.
Republican State Exec. Comm., 719 F.2d 1072, 1076 (11th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S.
1103 (1984). As such, federal courts only have the power to hear cases that they have been
authorized to hear by the Constitution or the Congress of the United States. See Kokkonen, 511
U.S. at 377. Because federal court jurisdiction is limited, the Eleventh Circuit favors remand of
removed cases where federal jurisdiction is not absolutely clear. See Burns, 31 F.3d at 1095.
III. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
After two days of experiencing chest pain, James Ansley arrived at the Bullock County
Hospital on the afternoon of July 20, 2012. From approximately 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Mr.
Ansley was treated by Bullock County medical staff, including Defendant Dr. Ireneo Domingo.
At 5:30 p.m., Mr. Ansley was transferred to Baptist Medical Center South where he arrived at
6:30 p.m. At 9:45 p.m. that night, he was pronounced dead. According to the First Amended
Complaint, the final diagnoses were chest pain and pulmonary embolism.
The administrator of Mr. Ansley’s estate, Alisa Ansley, initially filed the Complaint in
this case in state court. However, the Defendants removed the case to federal court on the basis
of the Complaint’s EMTALA count. After removal, the Plaintiff amended the Complaint,
removing the EMTALA claim and removing all other references to EMTALA. The Plaintiff
subsequently filed a Motion to Remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Federal courts “have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. “Such federal-question
jurisdiction may be based on a civil action alleging a violation of the Constitution, or asserting a
federal cause of action established by a congressionally created expressed or implied private
remedy for violations of a federal statute.” Jairath v. Dyer, 154 F.3d 1280, 1282 (11th Cir. 1998)
(citing City of Huntsville v. City of Madison, 24 F.3d 169, 171–72 (11th Cir. 1994)). “Although
the vast majority of cases that fall within such federal-question jurisdiction are cases that arise
under federal law that creates a cause of action, in limited circumstances, federal-question
jurisdiction may also be available if a substantial, disputed question of federal law is a necessary
element of a state cause of action.” Id. If jurisdiction exists because of a federal claim, the federal
court also has supplemental jurisdiction over related state law claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
Here the Defendants make two arguments against remanding this case to state court.
First, the Defendants argue that the Plaintiff only removed the EMTALA claim in an effort to
forum-shop, a practice which the Defendants argue this court should forbid. Second, the
Defendants argue that, although the EMTALA claim and any other reference to EMTALA have
been removed, “the allegations of an EMTALA claim for an improper transfer and failing to
timely treat an emergent condition remain,” and thus federal-question jurisdiction remains. (Doc.
# 20 at 9.)
The critical juncture for determining subject matter jurisdiction from pleadings is the time
of removal. Crowe v. Coleman, 113 F.3d 1536, 1538 (11th Cir. 1997). Under the well-pleaded
complaint rule, this court had federal-question jurisdiction at the time of removal. See Brock v.
DeBray, 869 F. Supp. 926, 927–28 (M.D. Ala. 1994) (“At the time Defendants removed this case
to federal court, the Plaintiffs’ complaint contained claims for alleged violations of Plaintiffs’
federal due process rights. Thus, the complaint raised claims which arose under federal law, and
removal was proper.”). The court rejects the Plaintiff’s contention that it no longer has
jurisdiction after the Complaint was amended to eliminate the federal claim. “The simple act of
amending the complaint does not automatically remove the case from the court’s purview.” Id. at
928. This court still has supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. Id. The
court may, however, decline to exercise that jurisdiction after weighing considerations of
“economy, convenience, fairness and comity in order to decide whether to exercise jurisdiction
over a case […] involving pendent state-law claims.” Carnegie–Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S.
343, 350 (1988). And, as discussed in Carnegie–Mellon, whether a plaintiff is attempting to
forum-shop by removing his or her federal claim is not determinative, but is only one other
factor to be considered. Id. at 357.
The Defendants focus on the alleged forum manipulation in this case as grounds for
remand. However, this is only one consideration to be taken into account, and, after applying the
Carnegie–Mellon factors in this case, this court determines that the case should be remanded to
As stated in Carnegie–Mellon, the factors to consider in determining whether to retain
jurisdiction over pendent state-law claims when federal claims have been deleted are “economy,
convenience, fairness and comity.” 484 U.S. at 350. First, considerations of economy do not
weigh in favor of retaining the case in federal court. This case is at the early stages of litigation.
The original Complaint was filed on July 19, 2013, and the Defendants have only filed their
Answers to the original Complaint and the First Amended Complaint. Apart from the motion for
remand in this case, no other actions have been taken, and thus it will not constitute a significant
waste of judicial resources to remand the case at this time. Furthermore, because the litigation is
at its early stages, remanding to state court will not be particularly inconvenient to the
Defendants. Moreover, while the Defendants argue that the Plaintiff has deleted the EMTALA
claim in order to deprive the Defendants of a federal forum, fairness still weighs in favor of the
case being litigated in the Plaintiff’s chosen forum under the Plaintiff’s chosen theories. Finally,
the Plaintiff concedes that the EMTALA claim is untenable, (Doc. # 21 at 1), the remaining
claims in this case concern interpretation and application of Alabama law, and thus comity
weighs in favor of remand. As the Supreme Court noted in Carnegie–Mellon, “[w]hen the single
federal-law claim in the action was eliminated at an early stage of the litigation, the District
Court had a powerful reason to choose not to continue to exercise jurisdiction.” 484 U.S. at 351.
For these reasons, the Carnegie–Mellon factors weigh in favor of remanding this case. As this
court stated in its earlier Brock case in remanding supplemental state law claims after an
amendment dropping federal claims:
The court agrees that Plaintiffs may be attempting to forum shop
by excising their federal claims and seeking remand. However, the
factors in this case still weigh in favor of remand. The court may
have reached a different conclusion had Plaintiffs’ tactics occurred
at a later stage in the litigation when substantial judicial resources
had already been expended.
869 F. Supp. at 929.
As to the Defendants’ second argument, the framework for a potential EMTALA claim is
not the same as asserting an EMTALA claim. See Beneficial Nat’l Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1,
6 (2003) (“As a general rule, absent diversity jurisdiction, a case will not be removable if the
complaint does not affirmatively allege a federal claim.”). While it is true that the Plaintiff has
removed references to EMTALA and replaced those references with generalized language of, for
example, “other guidelines,” (Doc. # 9 ¶ 61), the Plaintiff is no longer asserting the EMTALA
claim. While EMTALA might factor in as evidence bearing on a state law standard of care or
other element of the Plaintiff’s case, “the mere presence of a federal issue in a state cause of
action does not automatically confer federal-question jurisdiction.” Merrell Dow Pharm. Inc. v.
Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 813 (1986). Thus, despite the Plaintiff’s possible use of EMTALA in
the future, these references alone do not confer jurisdiction. See Sercye–McCollum v.
Ravenswood Hosp. Med. Ctr., 140 F. Supp. 2d 944, 946 (N.D. Ill. 2001) (rejecting the
Defendants’ argument that, “while plaintiffs may not have explicitly alleged an EMTALA claim,
plaintiffs’ state law claims are really ‘federal claims in state law wrapping paper’”).
For the reasons set out above, this court declines to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction
over the remaining state law claims, and it is hereby
ORDERED as follows:
1. Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand is GRANTED.
2. This case is remanded to the Circuit Court of Bullock County, Alabama.
3. The Clerk is DIRECTED to take the necessary steps to effect the remand.
DONE this 25th day of October, 2013.
/s/ W. Harold Albritton
W. HAROLD ALBRITTON
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?