The opinion of the court was delivered by: BARTELS
Defendant Seafarers' Welfare Plan ("the Plan") moves for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 on the basis of federal preemption of state law. Co-Defendants New York Methodist Hospital, Occupational Health Services of New York Methodist Hospital, Arnold Berlin, M.D., Anthony Saleh, M.D. and Esther Hertz, P.A. ("Co-Defendants") move pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rules 15(a) and 13(g) for leave to amend their pleadings to serve an answer to the Plan's cross-claim and to serve a cross-claim nunc pro tunc of their own. The Court does not rule on either motion. The Court remands the action sua sponte to state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Plaintiffs George and Maureen Morrison commenced this medical malpractice action on January 3, 1995 by filing a complaint in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Kings County.
Plaintiffs allege the following: Plaintiff George Morrison went for a physical examination at the New York Methodist Hospital Occupational Clinic on or about August 11, 1992 as a prerequisite to his voluntary admission to an alcohol rehabilitation program. During the examination Mr. Morrison tested positive to tuberculosis and was improperly prescribed Isoniazid for the condition. He later received additional care at the Seafarers' International Union Clinic in Herndon, Virginia which failed to perform proper follow-up testing. As a result, Mr. Morrison sustained, among other injuries, a circulatory complication in his left leg ultimately requiring an above-the-knee amputation.
Plaintiffs complain of medical malpractice, negligence and failure to obtain proper informed consent. All their claims are based on New York state law.
In addition to naming the doctors and hospitals involved in Mr. Morrison's medical care as defendants, Plaintiffs name Seafarers' Welfare Plan, Plaintiffs' health benefit plan, as a Defendant in this action.
The Plan removed this matter to this Court on February 10, 1995, asserting that the case involves a federal question because the Plan is an "employee benefit plan" and Plaintiffs are "participants" in the Plan as both terms are defined in the Employee Retirement Income security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1002(B)(2) and (7). None of the parties contest that the Plan is a qualified employee benefit plan under ERISA or that Plaintiffs are participants in the Plan. The Plan also asserts that ERISA completely preempts state law regarding employee benefits and on this basis moves for summary judgment on all claims against the Plan.
In this case, Plaintiffs brought all of their claims under New York state law. The action may therefore only be removed as one involving a federal question if it satisfies the "well-pleaded-complaint rule." Lupo v. Human Affairs International, Inc., 28 F.3d 269, 272 (2nd Cir. 1994) (citing Taylor v. Anderson, 234 U.S. 74, 75-76, 58 L. Ed. 1218, 34 S. Ct. 724 (1914)). The well-pleaded-complaint rule states that the Court must limit its search for a federal question to a plaintiff's claims as stated in his or her complaint and may not look to anticipated defenses which a defendant might impose in order to find a federal question "hook."
None of the claims in Plaintiffs' complaint is expressly federal in nature, thus it would seem the Court has no jurisdiction. Plaintiffs supported their notice of removal by invoking an exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule, namely that "Congress may so completely preempt a particular area that any civil complaint raising this select group of claims is necessarily federal in character." Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 63-64, 95 L. Ed. 2d 55, 107 S. Ct. 1542 (1987).
In Metropolitan Life the Supreme Court held that state law claims which were similar to the civil enforcement provisions of ERISA should be treated as federal claims, even if they were not expressly brought under that Act. Id. at 64-67. In that case the plaintiff brought suit against his employee benefit plan for reimplementation of his benefits after they were discontinued.
If the Metropolitan Life exception properly applied to this case, the Court would have subject matter jurisdiction. The Plan was mistaken when it relied on Metropolitan Life, however. The Second Circuit has interpreted the Metropolitan Life exception as only applying to claims which seek to recover benefits or enforce or ...