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MacManus v. Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority

May 19, 2008

H. CAMERON MACMANUS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHATTANOOGA-HAMILTON COUNTY HOSPITAL AUTHORITY D/B/A ERLANGER HOSPITAL AND BLEDSOE COUNTY, TENNESSEE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Harry S. Mattice, Jr. United States District Judge

Judge Mattice

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff H. Cameron MacManus initially filed this action in the Chancery Court of Bledsoe County, Tennessee against Defendants Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority d/b/a Erlanger Hospital and Bledsoe County, Tennessee alleging breach of contract, procurement of a breach of contract in violation of Tenn. Code § 46-50-109, tortious interference with Plaintiff's contractual relationships, and interference with Plaintiff's prospective business advantages. (Court Doc. 1-2.) Defendant removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. (Court Doc. 1-1.)

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand [Court Doc. 20]. For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's Motion to Remand will be GRANTED.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The facts, as recited below, are not in dispute.

Plaintiff is an osteopathic physician licensed to practice medicine in Tennessee. (Court Doc. 1-2 ("Complaint"), ¶ 1.) Defendant Bledsoe County is a governmental subdivision of the State of Tennessee which owns Bledsoe County Hospital, d/b/a Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital ("Erlanger-Bledsoe"), which is a 25-bed acute care hospital located in Pikeville, Tennessee. (Id. ¶ 3.) Defendant Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority, d/b/a Erlanger Health System ("Erlanger"), is a governmental hospital authority located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Id. ¶ 2; Court Doc. 4 ("Answer"), ¶ 2.) Erlanger is the lessee and operator of Erlanger-Bledsoe. (Answer ¶ 3.)

Plaintiff is board-certified in family medicine and has had medical staff privileges at Erlanger-Bledsoe since 1994. (Id. ¶ 5.) On March 5, 2008, Plaintiff received a letter from Dr. James W. Kennedy, notifying him that his medical staff privileges at Erlanger, including his privileges to admit patients to Erlanger-Bledsoe, had been suspended. (Id. ¶ 6.) The stated basis for this suspension was an audit of a number of Plaintiff's patients' charts. (Id.; Complaint ¶ 6.) Dr. Kennedy's letter relied upon certain provisions of the Erlanger Staff Bylaws. (Complaint ¶ 7; Answer ¶ 7.)

On March 28, 2008, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Chancery Court of Bledsoe County claiming that the suspension of his medical privileges constituted a breach of contract, procurement of breach of contract in violation of Tenn. Code § 46-50-109, tortious interference with his contractual relationships, and interference with his prospective business advantages. (Complaint ¶¶ 11-14.) Plaintiff requested injunctive relief to restore his privileges, an award of damages, and attorney's fees. (Id. at 4-5.)

Defendants removed the case to this Court on April 24, 2008. (Court Doc. 1.) Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Issuance of Show Cause Order and the Court set a hearing on Plaintiff's motion for May 12, 2008. (Court Docs. 3,5.) At the hearing on Plaintiff's preliminary injunction motion, the Court sua sponte raised the issue of whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over this case. After hearing brief argument from both parties, the Court recessed the hearing to afford the parties an opportunity to file briefs on that issue. Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand and a supporting memorandum on May 13, 2008 [Court Docs. 20, 21] and Erlanger responded on May 15, 2008 [Court Doc. 22]. Defendant Bledsoe County represented to the Court at the hearing that it has no position on whether this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action and will defend in either forum.

II. ANALYSIS

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Walburn v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 431 F.3d 966, 970 (6th Cir. 2005); Hudson v. Coleman, 347 F.3d 138, 141 (6th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, "it is presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction." Hudson, 347 F.3d at 141.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a civil action brought in state court may be removed to federal court if the federal court has original jurisdiction over the matter. Federal courts have original jurisdiction over "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treatises of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

Defendants removed this case because they contend that it "require[s] the resolution of a substantial question of federal law (i.e., whether a proper 'professional review action' was conducted by Defendant pursuant to the [Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 ('HCQIA')])." (Court Doc. 1 at 2.) Defendant*fn1 argues that "[a]lthough not expressly pled in Plaintiff's complaint, a federal question is nonetheless both intrinsic and central to Plaintiff's causes of action." (Id. at 4.)

A. Well-Pleaded Complaint Rule

"To determine whether the claim arises under federal law, we examine the 'well pleaded' allegations of the complaint and ignore potential defenses[.]" Beneficial Nat'l Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 6 (2003). Even "a defense that relies on the preclusive effect of a prior federal judgment or the pre-emptive effect of a federal statute will not provide a basis for removal." Id. (citations omitted).

It is undisputed that, Plaintiff has not raised, on the face of his complaint, a federal question. Plaintiff's claims are based solely on state law. See, e.g., Kadinger v. Wayne Chemical, Inc., 56 F.3d 64 (6th Cir. 1995) (breach of contract is a state law claim). Accordingly, Plaintiff's complaint does not facially raise an issue of federal law that would confer subject matter jurisdiction on the Court.

B. Exceptions to the Well-Pleaded Complaint Rule

There are, however, limited exceptions to the "well-pleaded complaint" rule. One exception is the artful-pleading doctrine, which states that a plaintiff may not "avoid removal jurisdiction by artfully casting their essentially federal law claims as state-law claims." Federated Dep't Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394, 397 n. 2 (1981) (quotation marks, citations, and edits omitted). A related exception is the complete-preemption doctrine, which states that removal is proper "when a federal statute wholly displaces the state-law cause of action through complete pre-emption." Beneficial Nat'l Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 8 (2003). A third exception is the substantial-federal-question doctrine, which applies "where the vindication of a right under state law necessarily turn[s] on some construction of federal law." ...


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