Howard v. Galderma Laboratories LP
Memorandum Opinion and Order granting 13 Motion to Remand to State Court filed by Alexandra Howard. (Ordered by Judge John McBryde on 8/9/2017) (mpw)
' ·. U.S. DISTRICT COURT
1--TORTIIERN DJSJJ':TCT OF TEXAS
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT C
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
FORT WORTH DIVISION
AUG - 9 20!7 ...
GALDERMA LABORATORIES, L.P.,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Came on for consideration the motion of plaintiff, Alexandra
Howard, to remand. The court, having considered the motion, the
response of defendant, Galderma Laboratories, L.P., the reply,
the record, and applicable authorities, finds that the motion
should be granted.
On May 19, 2017, plaintiff filed her original petition in
the 153rd Judicial District Court of Tarrant County, Texas. In
it, she alleged that she and defendant entered into a separation
and release agreement, which provided, in pertinent part:
The Company agrees to pay the Employee a High
Performance Plan Payout of approximately $146,359.00
with 90 days following the Separation Date (December
31, 2016) provided Employee complies with the terms and
conditions of the HPP Plan.
Doc.' 1-5 at '
9. Further, plaintiff had received an "HPP Plan
gross payment of $84,089.00" but defendant had failed and refused
to pay the balance of $62,270.00. Id. Plaintiff sued for breach
On June 8, 2017, defendant filed its notice of removal,
bringing the action before this court. Defendant maintained that
plaintiff's claim is preeempted by the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act of 1974, as amended, 29 U.S.C.
Ground of the Motion
Plaintiff does not dispute that the High Performance Plan
referenced in her separation agreement is an ERISA plan. She says
that her claim is not preempted by ERISA because the separation
agreement between her and defendant is independent of any ERISAgoverned plan; the separation agreement is only applicable to
plaintiff and not to a class of employees; the separation
agreement is a "one time" payment and does not require ongoing
supervision; and, the separation agreement does not relate to any
'The "Doc._" reference is to the number of the item on the docket in this action.
'Plaintiffs first and fowth reasons appear to be the same.
Under the doctrine of complete preemption, when a state
contract claim relates to an employee benefit plan covered by
ERISA, the state law claims are completely preempted, i.e.,
converted into federal claims. Kramer v. Smith Barney, 80 F.3d
(5th Cir. 1996); Whittemore v. Schlumberger Tech.
Corp., 976 F.2d 922, 923
(5th Cir. 1992). ERISA, 29 U.S.C.
1132(e) (1), grants federal courts exclusive jurisdiction in civil
actions involving ERISA plans. Wilson v. Kimberly-Clark Corp.,
254 F. App' x 280, 282
(5th Cir. 2007).
Here, the payment plaintiff seeks to recover is a payment
under a severance agreement and not a payment required to be made
under an ERISA plan. In other words, she is not seeking payment
pursuant to an ERISA plan. No ongoing administrative scheme is
necessary to execute the agreement between plaintiff and
defendant. The agreement concerns only the two parties.
Accordingly, plaintiff has shown that her lawsuit belongs in
state court, where she initiated it.
The court ORDERS that plaintiff's motion to remand be, and
is hereby, granted, and this action be, and is hereby, remanded
to the 153rct Judicial District Court of Tarrant County, Texas,
from which it was removed.
SIGNED August 9, 2017.
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