Estate of Kekona v. Alaska Airlines Inc et al

Filing 82

ORDER granting Plaintiff's 72 Motion to Remand. Per LCR 3(i), case will be remanded 14 days from the date of this Order, on 5/7/2019. Signed by U.S. District Judge John C Coughenour. (TH)

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THE HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 Estate of BERNICE KEKONA, by its Personal Representative, Darlene Bloyed, 10 CASE NO. C18-0116-JCC ORDER Plaintiff, 11 v. 12 ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., et al., 13 Defendants. 14 15 This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s motion to remand (Dkt. No. 72). 16 17 Having thoroughly considered the parties’ briefing and the relevant record, the Court hereby 18 GRANTS the motion for the reasons explained herein. 19 I. BACKGROUND The Court has described the facts of this case in a previous order and will not repeat them 20 21 here. (See Dkt. No. 22 at 1–3.) Plaintiffs initially filed this case in state court and, in January 22 2018, Defendants removed it on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 1.) In 23 February 2019, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 56.) In March 2019, 24 Plaintiff filed a motion to remand the case to state court, arguing that a July 2018 Ninth Circuit 25 decision established that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 72.) 26 // ORDER C18-0116-JCC PAGE - 1 1 II. DISCUSSION 2 A. Removal Jurisdiction 3 A defendant may timely remove a state court action to federal court if the federal court in 4 question has original jurisdiction over the dispute. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). As the removing party, 5 Defendants have the burden of establishing that removal is proper, and the Court must resolve all 6 doubts as to removability in favor of remand. See Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 7 1992). “If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter 8 jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). In their notice of removal, 9 Defendants asserted that this Court has federal question jurisdiction over this case. (Dkt. No. 1 at 10 3–6.) 11 B. 12 Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising under the Federal Question Jurisdiction 13 Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. To properly remove based 14 on federal question jurisdiction, a defendant must show that the plaintiff’s “well-pleaded 15 complaint establishes either that federal law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff’s right 16 to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law.” Proctor v. 17 Vishay Intertechnology Inc., 584 F.3d 1208, 1219 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Empire Healthchoice 18 Assurance, Inc. v. McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 689–90 (2006)). With regard to the latter option, the 19 Supreme Court has clarified that “federal jurisdiction over a state law claim will lie if a federal 20 issue is: (1) necessarily raised, (2) actually disputed, (3) substantial, and (4) capable of resolution 21 in federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by Congress.” Gunn v. 22 Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 258 (2013). Despite the fact that she appears to allege that her complaint 23 once pled causes of action under the Air Carrier Access Act (“ACAA”) (see Dkt. No. 81 at 1–2, 24 5–6), Plaintiff’s complaint pleads state law causes of action (see Dkt. No. 1-2 at 15–17, 19–20), 25 and both parties agree that the ACAA establishes the standard of care owed to Plaintiff (Dkt. 26 Nos. 56 at 9–10, 66 at 13–15, 72, 80). Defendants assert that Plaintiff’s state law claims ORDER C18-0116-JCC PAGE - 2 1 2 necessarily depend on resolution of a substantial question of federal law. (Dkt. No. 80.) “The substantiality inquiry . . . looks . . . to the importance of the issue to the federal 3 system as a whole,” and is not concerned with the “importance of the issue to the plaintiff’s case 4 and to the parties before it.” Gunn, 568 U.S. at 260. Normally, state tort claims that apply federal 5 standards of care do not give rise to federal question jurisdiction. See id. at 259–60; Grable & 6 Sons Metal Prod., Inc. v. Darue Eng’g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312–14 (2005); Merrell Dow 7 Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808–12, 814 (1986). However, rare state tort claims that 8 require the court to resolve a substantial issue of federal law may give rise to federal question 9 jurisdiction. See Grable, 545 U.S. at 315. 10 Here, Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s state tort claims give rise to federal question 11 jurisdiction because the Court must decide whether ACAA regulations require air carriers to do 12 more than the regulations’ plain language suggests. (See Dkt. No. 80.) Specifically, Defendants 13 argue that this case turns on whether the ACAA requires air carriers to always provide assistance 14 to a disabled passenger if that service is requested ahead of time, regardless of whether the 15 passenger later declines that service. (See id.) Although this question may be a substantial issue 16 of federal law, it is not one that the deciding court will necessarily be required to answer. In her 17 summary judgment briefing, Plaintiff argues that Ms. Kekona did not decline the service and that 18 Defendants breached their duty by simply failing to provide services that were requested. (See 19 Dkt. No. 66.) In other words, the deciding court will not have to determine whether the ACAA 20 requires air carriers to do more than the regulations outline because Plaintiff does not allege that 21 Defendants violated the ACAA by failing to provide services to Ms. Kekona, regardless of 22 whether Ms. Kekona declined those services. This case does not involve interpretation of federal 23 law; instead, it is a “garden variety” state tort claim, which, like many state tort claims, happens 24 to have a federal standard of care. Therefore, there is no federal question jurisdiction and the 25 Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction in this case. 26 ORDER C18-0116-JCC PAGE - 3 1 2 3 4 III. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s motion to remand (Dkt. No. 72) is GRANTED. The Clerk is DIRECTED to terminate as moot Docket Numbers 56 and 64. DATED this 23rd day of April 2019. A 5 6 7 John C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 ORDER C18-0116-JCC PAGE - 4

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