United States District Court, S.D. New York
August 26, 2005.
PATRICIA E. CAGGIANO and JOHN CAGGIANO, Plaintiffs,
PFIZER INC. and PARKE-DAVIS, a Division of WARNER-LAMBERT COMPANY, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JED RAKOFF, District Judge
OPINION AND ORDER
The Court earlier consolidated under this caption and docket
number 46 cases removed from New York state court that pleaded
state-law claims based on allegations that defendants caused the
drug Neurontin to be used for unsafe purposes and misled doctors
and patients as to Neurontin's safety and efficacy. See Amended
Order, 7/26/05. Before the Court now is plaintiffs' motion to
remand these cases to state court.
The complaints in the 46 cases at issue are essentially
identical. For convenience, reference will be made to the
complaint in the lead case, Caggiano v. Pfizer, 05 Civ. 4159.
That complaint alleges eight substantive claims, all rooted in
state law.*fn1 The first three counts allege, in essence,
that defendants marketed the drug Neurontin for "off-label" uses
(i.e., uses for which it had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration) for which it was not reasonably safe or
effective. See Complaint ¶¶ 136-179. The other five counts, for
breach of express and implied warranty, violation of the New York
Consumer Protection Act, see N.Y. Gen. Bus. L. §§ 349-50, and
common-law fraud, allege that defendants, rather than disclosing
to the public this lack of safety and efficacy, misled doctors
and patients as to the same. See id. ¶¶ 180-238.
Although these are all classic state-law claims, the complaint
is also peppered with allegations that the defendants violated
various federal statutes and regulations. For example, the
complaint alleges that defendants deliberately failed to seek
required FDA approval for many uses, see id. ¶¶ 16-47, 63,
gave illegal kickbacks and other financial incentives to
physicians who prescribed Neurontin for off-label uses, see
id. ¶¶ 48, 52-53, 57, 126-133, and induced third parties to
promote Neurontin for off-label uses to evade federal law that
prevents the manufacturer itself from doing so, see id. ¶¶
63-74. The complaint further alleges that such conduct resulted
in the defendants being found in violation of federal law by the
Department of Health and Human Services, see id. ¶¶ 120-122,
and being sued in a federal qui tam action by a former
employee turned whistleblower, see id. ¶ 60; see also
United States ex rel. Franklin v. Parke-Davis, 2003 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 15754 (D. Mass. 2003). These contextual allegations, however, are not enough to confer
federal question jurisdiction. Where no federal claim has been
pleaded, a case only "arises under" federal law if a plaintiff's
"right to relief under state law requires resolution of a
substantial question of federal law." Franchise Tax Bd. of State
of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 8-9
(1983). Here, the factual allegations set forth in the complaint
state claims under New York law regardless of whether any federal
law has been violated. Put another way, a jury could find
defendants liable on each and every one of the eight claims
without being required to determine whether any federal law had
been violated. That the facts alleged also may constitute
violations of federal law (for which recovery is being sought in
federal court) is neither here nor there. Compare D'Alessio v.
N.Y. Stock Exch., 258 F.3d 93, 103-04 (2d Cir. 2001) (finding
federal question jurisdiction where claims "necessarily
require[d]" a court to construe federal law and where the duties
alleged to have been breached did not exist independent of
In a related case, this Court needed to go no further before
remanding, because the plaintiff expressly disclaimed any intent
to seek a jury instruction that would allow recovery based solely
on a finding that defendants violated federal law. See Young
v. Pfizer Inc., 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25964 (S.D.N.Y. 2004). By contrast, plaintiffs here have expressed an intent to seek a
determination that certain federal law violations constitute
negligence per se under state law, see Complaint ¶ 147,
meaning that a state court may be asked to consider whether
federal law was violated. However, absent special
circumstances,*fn2 there is no federal question jurisdiction
over garden-variety state-law claims "resting on federal
mislabeling and other statutory violations." Grable & Sons Metal
Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 125 S. Ct. 2363, 2370
(2005). The duties alleged to have been breached here are not
creatures of federal law, as in D'Alessio; rather, federal
standards merely inform the content of classically state-law
duties such as avoiding negligence and fraud. Cf. Donovan v.
Rothman, 106 F. Supp. 2d 513, 517-18 (S.D.N.Y. 2000). Moreover,
none of the claims here depend on the borrowing of federal law;
rather, violation of federal law is simply one of multiple
theories on which plaintiff may possibly prevail. See Broder
v. Cablevision Sys. Corp., 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 16811, at *12
(2d Cir. Aug. 11, 2005) ("Where a federal issue is present as only one of multiple theories that could
support a particular claim . . . this is insufficient to create
federal jurisdiction."). Accordingly, there is no federal
question jurisdiction over these claims.
Having made this finding, the Court must reach the question of
whether to retain the 15 of the 46 cases for which, the parties
agree, there is diversity jurisdiction. It is undisputed that
defendants could not have properly removed these cases on that
basis, since at least one defendant is a citizen of New York.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). However, while a federal court must
remand a case to state court if it finds at any time that it
lacks subject matter jurisdiction, a motion to remand on any
other basis must be made "within 30 days after the filing of the
notice of removal," or else it is waived. See
28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). All fifteen cases were removed more than 30 days before
plaintiffs moved to remand on July 21, 2005. If defendants had
removed these 15 cases on the basis of diversity jurisdiction,
plaintiffs thus would have no recourse, notwithstanding the
impropriety of such removal. Shapiro v. Logistec USA Inc.,
412 F.3d 307, ___, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 11769, at *18-*19 (2d Cir.
June 20, 2005).
But this case is somewhat different, since defendants did not
remove on the basis of diversity but rather solely on the basis
of purported federal question jurisdiction. Plaintiffs had no reason or opportunity to challenge the propriety of asserting
diversity jurisdiction until defendants were asked by the Court,
on a July 20 telephonic conference, whether any cases had an
alternative jurisdictional basis in diversity; at that point,
plaintiffs immediately raised the impropriety of removal on such
Neither party has pointed the Court to any relevant precedent.
Nonetheless, it seems clear, as a matter of basic equitable
principles, that plaintiffs cannot waive their right to challenge
a basis for removal without having an opportunity to assert it.
Moreover, while there is no reason to doubt the good faith of
these defendants in removing on federal question grounds, to
allow suits to go forward under diversity jurisdiction where they
could not have been removed on that basis and where plaintiffs
had no opportunity to challenge such removal is to sanction a
"bait-and-switch" tactic that, in addition to being unfair, would
undermine the home-state-defendant exception to diversity
removal. The Court therefore holds that the 30-day clock for
challenging removal on diversity grounds began running not when
the case was removed on another basis but when plaintiffs were
made aware of the alternative basis for removal; by this measure,
plaintiffs interposed their objection well within the allotted
time. Finally, plaintiffs' motion to recover attorney's fees and
costs "incurred as a result of the removal," see
28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), is denied. While bad faith removal by a defendant is not
a precondition to a plaintiff's recovery under this section,
see Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. of New York v. Republic of
Palau, 971 F.2d 917, 923-24 (2d Cir. 1992), the absence of bad
faith, as well as the existence of a colorable question as to
whether removal is proper, weighs against the award of costs and
fees. See, e.g., United Mutual Houses, L.P. v. Andujar,
230 F. Supp. 2d 349, 354 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). Although the defendants'
contention that there is federal question jurisdiction here did
not prevail, it was far from a frivolous argument.
Accordingly, plaintiffs' motion to remand is granted in full.
The Clerk of the Court is directed to return the 46 cases
consolidated under this caption and docket number to the Supreme
Court of the State of New York, County of New York. Plaintiffs'
motion for costs and fees associated with this motion is denied.
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