B et al v. Anthem Blue Cross Life and Health Insurance Company et al

Filing 29

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND; DENYING PLAINTIFFS' REQUEST FOR FEES AND COSTS. Signed by Judge Maxine M. Chesney on July 22, 2014. (mmclc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/22/2014)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 JEFFERY B.; JAMISON B., No. C 14-2253 MMC Plaintiffs, v. ANTHEM BLUE CROSS LIFE & HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANY; BLUE CROSS OF CALIFORNIA INC.; ANTHEM UM SERVICES, INC., ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION TO REMAND; DENYING PLAINTIFFS’ REQUEST FOR FEES AND COSTS For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 11 12 13 14 Defendants. / 15 16 Before the Court is plaintiffs’ motion, filed June 13, 2014, to remand the above-titled 17 action to the Superior Court of the State of California. Defendants have filed opposition, 18 and plaintiff has filed a reply. Having read and considered the papers filed in support of 19 and in opposition to the motion, the Court finds the matter appropriate for decision on the 20 parties’ respective written submissions, VACATES the hearing scheduled for July 25, 2014, 21 and rules as follows. 22 1. The Court agrees with plaintiffs that the nature and number of persons employed 23 by plaintiffs’ law firm precludes a finding that the policy at issue is an employee benefit plan 24 as defined by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). See 29 C.F.R. 25 § 2510.3-3(b)-(c) (providing “employee benefit plan” under ERISA “shall not include any 26 plan, fund, or program . . . under which no employees are participants covered under the 27 plan”; further providing “[a]n individual and his or her spouse shall not be deemed to be 28 employees with respect to a trade or business . . . which is wholly owned by the individual 1 or by the individual and his or her spouse”); see also Raymond B. Yates, M.D., P.C. Profit 2 Sharing Plan v. Hendon, 541 U.S. 1, 21 (2004) (holding “[p]lans that cover only sole owners 3 or partners and their spouses . . . fall outside . . . domain” of Title I of ERISA). 4 2. The Court finds unpersuasive defendants’ argument that plaintiffs can be 5 estopped from asserting the policy is other than an ERISA plan. Indeed, even if both 6 parties were in accord that the policy qualifies as an ERISA plan, such agreement would 7 not suffice to confer jurisdiction in the absence of facts sufficient to support a finding to that 8 effect, see Mitchell v. Maurer, 293 U.S. 237, 244 (1934) (holding “lack of federal jurisdiction 9 cannot be waived or be overcome by an agreement of the parties”); to the extent 10 defendants argue they relied to their detriment on the statements made in the application 11 for the subject policy, any such argument is more properly raised in state court as a 12 defense to plaintiffs’ claims. 13 3. In light of the arguably conflicting statements made in the application and the 14 questions raised by defendants as to the legal effect thereof, the Court finds an award of 15 attorney’s fees is not appropriate in this instance. See Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 16 U.S. 132, 141 (2005) (noting, “absent unusual circumstances,” attorney's fees should not 17 be awarded where removing party has “an objectively reasonable basis for seeking 18 removal”). CONCLUSION 19 20 For the reasons stated above: 21 1. Plaintiffs’ motion is hereby GRANTED, and the above-titled action is hereby 22 REMANDED to the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the County of San 23 Francisco. 24 2. Plaintiffs’ request for an award of attorney’s fees and costs is hereby DENIED. 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. 26 Dated: July 22, 2014 MAXINE M. CHESNEY United States District Judge 27 28 2

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