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HENRY v. QUINTOS

United States District Court, S.D. New York


December 3, 2005.

SANDRA BARNABY AS ADMINISTRATRIX FOR THE ESTATE OF CAROL-ANN HENRY and DEVON SMITH, Plaintiffs,
v.
LORCELI ALVAREZ QUINTOS, M.D., et al., Defendants. UNIVERSAL DIAGNOSTIC LABORATORIES, INC., ARNOLD L. STATINGER, M.D., and MARLENE JEAN-BAPTISTE, Third-Party Plaintiffs, v. LORCELI ALVAREZ QUINTOS, M.D., and MT. VERNON NEIGHBORHOOD HEALTH CENTER, INC., Third-Party Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN KOELTL, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

The third-party defendants, Lorceli Alvarez Quintos, M.D. ("Quintos"), and Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center ("MVHC") (collectively the "Clinic defendants"), move to dismiss the third-party complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12 (b) (1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. I.

This action was originally brought by the plaintiff in New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County, for medical malpractice. In addition to Quintos and MVHC, the state court action named as defendants the third-party plaintiffs, Universal Diagnostic Laboratories, Inc., ("Universal"), Arnold L. Statsinger, M.D., and Marlene Jean-Baptiste (collectively the "Lab defendants"). In December 2003, the Clinic defendants removed the action to this Court and the Government moved to have the United States substituted for the Clinic defendants because they were federal employees acting in the scope of their employment and could not be sued.*fn1 The only remedy available would be a suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"). See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2679 (b) (1).

  The United States was substituted as a defendant and the action was dismissed against the United States without prejudice for failure to file an administrative claim as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a). The case was remanded to state court against the remaining defendants, the Lab defendants. Thereafter, in May 2005, the Lab defendants filed a third-party complaint against the Clinic defendants in state court, and in July 2005 the Clinic defendants again removed the entire case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1), 28 U.S.C. § 2679(d)(2), and 42 U.S.C. § 233(c).

  II.

  The Clinic defendants now move to dismiss the third-party complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the doctrine of "derivative jurisdiction." Under this doctrine, this Court lacks jurisdiction on removal because it cannot have jurisdiction where the state court from which the action was removed lacked jurisdiction. The state court lacked jurisdiction because, under 28 U.S.C. § 1346 (b) (1) and 28 U.S.C. § 2679 (b) (1), the third-party complaint against the Clinic defendants could only be brought against the United States in the federal district court.

  The derivative jurisdiction doctrine has its roots in the Supreme Court's decision in Lambert Run Coal Co. v. Baltimore & Ohio R.R., 258 U.S. 377 (1922), in which the Court stated that "[t]he jurisdiction of the federal court on removal is, in a limited sense, a derivative jurisdiction. If the state court lacks jurisdiction of the subject-matter or of the parties, the federal court acquires none, although it might in a like suit originally brought there have had jurisdiction." Id. at 382; see also Arizona v. Manypenny, 451 U.S. 232, 242 n. 17 (1981); Minnesota v. United States, 305 U.S. 382, 389 (1939); PT United Can Co. Ltd. v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., Inc., 138 F.3d 65, 72-73 (2d Cir. 1998). The Lab defendants respond that dismissal pursuant to a derivative jurisdiction theory would not be appropriate because that doctrine is no longer viable because it has been eliminated by 28 U.S.C. § 1441(f). Alternatively, the Lab defendants argue that the state court had jurisdiction over the third-party claims because exclusive federal jurisdiction under the FTCA did not exist until the Attorney General of the United States, or his designee, certified the Clinic defendants as federal employees acting within the scope of their employment, the case was removed to federal court, and the United States substituted as defendant.

  III.

  With respect to the continuing viability of derivative jurisdiction, it is clear that 28 U.S.C. § 1441(f), first adopted in different form by Congress in 1985 (the "1985 amendment"), eliminated derivative jurisdiction for cases removed under 28 U.S.C. § 1441.*fn2 Section 1441(a) authorizes removal for any civil action "brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction." This case, however, was removed to this court not under Section 1441, but under 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a) (1),*fn3 28 U.S.C. § 2679 (d) (2),*fn4 and 42 U.S.C. § 233(C).*fn5 The Lab defendants' principal contention is that 28 U.S.C. § 1441(f) should be read to eliminate the doctrine not only for cases removed under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, but for all cases. Such a reading, however, is foreclosed by the plain text and the history of the statute.

  The 1985 amendment, originally codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1441(e), provided that

"The court to which such civil action is removed is not precluded from hearing and determining any claim in such civil action because the State court from which such civil action is removed did not have jurisdiction over that claim."
Judicial Improvements Act of 1985, Pub.L. 99-336 § 3, 100 Stat. 633.

  In 2002, however, Congress again amended 28 U.S.C. § 1441, redesignating the paragraph added in the 1985 amendment, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(e), as 28 U.S.C. § 1441(f), and inserting a new subsection (e) (the "2002 amendment"). More importantly, Congress amended the provision's text, replacing "The court to which such civil action is removed" with the words "The court to which a civil action is removed under this section." Pub.L. 107-273 § 11020(b) (3) (A), 116 Stat. 1758, 1827 (emphasis added).

  As amended in 2002, therefore, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(f) reads:

"The court to which a civil action is removed under this section is not precluded from hearing and determining any claim in such civil action because the State court from which such civil action was removed did not have jurisdiction over that claim."
28 U.S.C. § 1441(f).
  In amending the statute in 2002, and replacing less precise language with much more specific language, Congress left no doubt that Section 1441(f) applies only to removals under Section 1441 and not to removals under any other section of the United States Code.

  Accordingly, in the absence of a corresponding amendment to other removal provisions, such as 28 U.S.C. § 1442, every district court decision in this circuit to address the issue has found that derivative jurisdiction continues to be the rule under those provisions despite the 2002 and 1985 amendments to Section 1441. See Singleton v. Elrac, Inc., No. 03 Civ. 4979 (JFK), 2004 WL 2609554 at *1-2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 16, 2004); Gionfriddo v. Salaf, 343 F. Supp. 2d 109, 111 (D. Conn. 2004); Charles v. Inam, No. 99 Civ. 12427 (SWK), 2001 WL 79900 at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 30, 2001); Giuffre v. City of New York, No. 00 Civ. 1517 (MBM), 2000 WL 557324 at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 8, 2000); Moreland v. Van Buren GMC, 93 F. Supp. 2d 346, 353-55 (E.D.N.Y. 1999). Contrast Strychasz v. Maron Const. Co., Inc., No. Civ. 3:01 CV 2063 (PCD), 2002 WL 32500874 at *2 (D. Conn. Jul. 16, 2002) (noting that derivative jurisdiction was "eliminated to some extent" by the 1985 amendment, but declining to address the viability of derivative jurisdiction for cases removed under 28 U.S.C. § 1442 because the Government had cited 28 U.S.C. § 1441 as the basis for removal).

  While the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has not, since the 1985 or 2002 amendments, directly addressed the continued viability of derivative jurisdiction for cases removed pursuant to provisions other than 28 U.S.C. § 1441, it has referred to derivative jurisdiction as a viable doctrine well after the adoption of the 1985 amendment. See PT United Can Co. Ltd., 138 F.3d at 72-73.*fn6

  Like the above — cited district courts in this Circuit, the majority of the Courts of Appeals to address the issue have continued to apply the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction where Section 1441 is not the basis for removal. See Kasi v. Angelone, 300 F.3d 487, 503 n. 6 (4th Cir. 2002); Smith v. Cromer, 159 F.3d 875, 879 (4th Cir. 1998); In re Elko Co. Grand Jury, 109 F.3d 544, 555 (9th Cir. 1997); Edwards v. United States Dep't of Justice, 43 F.3d 312, 316 (7th Cir. 1994).

  The leading case to the contrary, heavily relied upon by the Lab defendants, is the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in North Dakota v. Fredericks, 940 F.2d 333, 336-38 (8th Cir. 1991). The Fredericks court concluded that that Section 1441(f) should be read to eliminate the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction in all cases, including removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1444, the issue before that court.*fn7 Id. at 336-37. While the court acknowledged that the "the words of the statute clearly do not reach this far," it invoked the theory of "equity of the statute" in concluding that the best way to effectuate the basic purpose of Section 1441(f)*fn8 is to read it as a broader Congressional repudiation of derivative jurisdiction than the text of the statute alone might suggest. Id. at 337. Thus because "statutes are an authoritative expression of public policy . . . [t]hat policy should be hospitably received by the courts, and they are free to apply it, absent good reasons to the contrary, in cases within the spirit of the enactment, but not within its letter." Id.

  The 2002 amendment to Section 1441, adopted eleven years after Fredericks, clearly precludes a holding that 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (f) itself eliminated derivative jurisdiction for cases removed pursuant to provisions other than Section 1441. Congress specifically limited the elimination of derivative jurisdiction to cases removed under Section 1441. Had Congress intended to abolish derivative jurisdiction altogether, it could have done so when amending Section 1441 again in 2002, but it chose to make it clear that the elimination of derivative jurisdiction was limited to cases removed under Section 1441.

  IV.

  The Lab defendants' alternative argument is that the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction does not apply in this case because the state court retained jurisdiction over the Clinic defendants until their certification as federal employees acting within the scope of their employment, actual removal, and substitution of the United States as defendant had all taken place.

  The argument by the Lab defendants is unavailing. If the Lab defendants were correct, they would eliminate the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction in FTCA cases because it could always be argued that that the state court had jurisdiction when the federal defendant was sued and only lost jurisdiction sometime thereafter, after the federal defendant was actually certified by the Attorney General as a federal employee acting with the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose, see 28 U.S.C. § 2679(d)(2), removal had occurred, and a motion to substitute the United States had been decided. This would be contrary to those cases that have employed the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction to dismiss FTCA claims after their removal from state court. See, e.g., Singleton, 2004 WL 2609554; Gionfriddo, 343 F. Supp. 2d 109; Charles, 2001 WL 79900.

  The Lab defendants rely on Thompson v. Wheeler, 898 F.2d 406 (3d Cir. 1990), to support the argument that the state court had jurisdiction over the third party claim when it was removed and, therefore, derivative jurisdiction is not applicable. Thompson is an unusual case and does not support jurisdiction in the state court in this case. In Thompson, a lawsuit including a third-party claim against a federal employee was removed to federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1442 and was thereafter dismissed on the merits based upon a prior settlement. On appeal, the Court of Appeals expressed doubt about whether the case was properly removed under 28 U.S.C. § 1442 and re-characterized it as removed under 28 U.S.C. § 2679 (d). The Court noted that other courts had dismissed cases removed under Section 2679 (d) because the federal courts had exclusive jurisdiction to hear FTCA claims and the state courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction over such claims. See Thompson, 898 F.2d at 409 n. 2. The Court of Appeals did not question those cases and those cases require dismissal here. The Thompson court distinguished those cases because the court found that federal jurisdiction under Section 2679 (d) lies only after the Attorney General certifies the federal employee as acting with the scope of his employment. Id. The "possibility that such certification might issue does not automatically divest a state court of subject matter jurisdiction." Id. Whatever the merits of that position, Thompson was a case where the notice of removal was not based on Section 2679 (d). In this case that was one of the sections pursuant to which the case was removed, and the Attorney General had already certified that the Clinic defendants were federal employees acting within the scope of their employment in December 2003, prior to the dismissal of the case against those defendants for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Thus, the state court lacked jurisdiction at the time the case was removed in July 2005.*fn9

  The Attorney General's initial certification of the Clinic defendants on December 1, 2003, remained in force at the time the third-party complaint was filed and at all times thereafter, and as a result, the state court did not have jurisdiction over the case at the time of its second removal to this Court. Therefore, there is no basis for holding that derivative jurisdiction is inapplicable in this case.

  CONCLUSION

  For the reasons stated above, the Government's motion to dismiss the third-party complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is granted. The third-party complaint is dismissed, without prejudice, and the remainder of the case is again remanded to the New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County. The Clerk is directed to enter a judgment and close this case.

  SO ORDERED.

20051203

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