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Watson v. IHC Health Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Utah

February 15, 2018

SUSAN M. WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
IHC HEALTH SERVICES, INC. dba INTERMOUNTAIN MEDICAL CENTER; MARK B. SHAH, M.D.; WILLIAM J. HALDEN, M.D.; PETER MAUGHAN, M.D.; PETER MAUGHAN, M.D., P.C.; NEUROSURGICAL ASSOCIATES, L.L.C.; BRENT A. FELIX, M.D.; BRENT A. FELIX, M.D., P.C.; SALT LAKE ORTHOPAEDIC CLINIC, INC.; DOE INDIVIDUALS 1 through 10; and ROE ENTITIES 1 through 10, inclusive, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND

          Ted Stewart United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Susan M. Watson filed her initial Complaint against Defendant IHC Health Services and others in state court on September 29, 2017.[1] In her Complaint, Plaintiff referenced the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (“EMTALA”), a federal statute, as a potential ground for a breach in Defendant IHC's duty of care.[2] Defendant filed a Notice of Removal on October 19, 2017, asserting federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.[3]In November, Plaintiff amended her Complaint to remove any reference to EMTALA.[4] Plaintiff then filed this Motion to Remand.[5]

         II. DISCUSSION

         Two issues are presented in the Motion to Remand and Defendant's Response: whether a federal question remains within the Amended Complaint and, if not, whether the Court is stripped of its jurisdiction over the case because Plaintiff removed any reference to federal law.

         A. FEDERAL QUESTION

         Defendant asserts that although Plaintiff has omitted any reference to federal law in her Amended Complaint, the substance and allegations of the initial Complaint remain unchanged.[6]In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff continues to allege that doctors failed to properly respond to an emergency medical condition, stabilize patient's condition, and transport the patient.[7]Defendant argues that these requirements are regulated by EMTALA.[8] Because Plaintiff's allegations are substantially based on EMTALA's protections, Defendant claims that the Amended Complaint does arise under federal law.[9]

         Plaintiff claims that the sole cause of action in this case is medical malpractice under the Utah Health Care Malpractice Act.[10] Plaintiff states that EMTALA was only mentioned in the original Complaint as a potential ground for breach of the standard care.[11] Because the Amended Complaint removes any reference to EMTALA, Plaintiff argues there is no federal question to be considered.[12] The fact that three potential grounds for breach correspond with EMTALA's requirements does not transform this cause of action from state to federal law.[13] Plaintiff points out that claims for failures to treat, stabilize, and transport patients are not solely reserved for EMTALA.[14] Thus, Plaintiff argues, a federal question does not remain in this case.[15]

         The Court agrees with Plaintiff's position. Without a direct conflict, EMTALA does not preempt state law.[16] Federal courts have oft held that state-law negligence claims do not directly conflict with EMTALA's purposes.[17] Claims for negligence in the treatment, stabilization, or transport of patients, like those Plaintiff is asserting here, are actually not cognizable under EMTALA[18] because its sole purpose is to stop the disparate treatment of uninsured patients.[19]

         Here, Plaintiff is only seeking recovery under state law because she claims negligence in her treatment, stabilization, and transport. Her sole cause of action is for “Medical Malpractice.”[20] A claim under EMTALA would require additional allegations that she was treated differently than other covered patients within their insurance plans.[21] The original Complaint's mention of EMTALA appears as if it was only stated as a potential ground for breach of the standard care, rather than asserting a separate claim under EMTALA. This is not to say that federal question jurisdiction was improperly invoked in this case's removal, but no federal claims remain.

         B. SUPPLEMENTAL JURISDICTION

         Plaintiff contends that without a federal question in the Amended Complaint, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and the case must be remanded under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).[22]Defendant responds that because federal jurisdiction was properly invoked under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) at removal, this Court maintains subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.[23]

         On this issue, Defendant's argument prevails but not for the stated reasons. When federal claims are dismissed, resolved, or omitted in amended complaints, the Court retains subject matter jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) and (c).[24] It is therefore up to the Court's discretion whether to exercise this supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims or remand.[25] In a Tenth Circuit case upholding this principal, the court held that, where the only federal claim had been dismissed, the court “retained subject matter jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims . . . [and] possessed the discretion to either retain or remand those claims pursuant to § 1367(c).”[26] Therefore, this Court's decision to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over this case is “purely discretionary.”[27] However, the Tenth Circuit has suggested “[w]hen all federal claims have been dismissed, the court . . . usually should[] ...


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