St. Louis Toodle-oo: E.D. Mo. Finds Federal Query Jurisdiction

Company defendants don’t all the time take pleasure in being in St. Louis.  We don’t imply that as a knock on the Gateway Arch or the very good zoo or the superb meals choices and even (grrrr) “baseball heaven.” We imply that St. Louis Metropolis Courtroom is singularly inhospitable to tort defendants.  The advance sheets are full of massive (in a foul approach) verdicts by St. Louis Metropolis juries. Thus, it’s no shock when defendants try and flee the jurisdiction, both by shifting for switch of venue to a friendlier courthouse, such because the St. Louis County court docket, or eradicating the case to federal court docket.  (The cluster of various courthouses in St.Louis is undeniably spectacular. And we haven’t but talked about the Previous Courthouse, the situation of what’s in all probability the worst trial in American historical past, the Dred Scott case.). Whether or not a defendant can escape the Metropolis court docket might be final result determinative. It definitely shapes settlement discussions. The underside line is that any case flinging open the St. Louis Metropolis court docket exit doorways qualifies as a Massive Deal. 

Say hey to the most recent such Massive Deal: Hawkins v. SSM Well being CARE Corp., 2023 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 115833 (E.D. Mo. July 6, 2023), a uncommon protection win on federal query jurisdiction in Missouri. Whereas the Hawkins case doesn’t contain allegations of FDCA violations, it closely depends on a previous Eighth Circuit resolution, Wullschleger, that discovered federal query jurisdiction the place FDCA violations had been alleged.  

The criticism in Hawkins was filed in St.Louis Metropolis court docket and stemmed from the defendant’s alleged follow of charging emergency room sufferers with a shock “Visitation charge.” There have been three causes of motion: (1) violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, (2) negligence per se, and (3) unjust enrichment.  The defendant eliminated the case to federal court docket on the idea of federal query jurisdiction. The plaintiff moved to remand the case again to state court docket. 

The defendant bore the burden of displaying federal jurisdiction. We’re feeling very listy and numbery immediately, so right here comes one other numerical checklist. A state regulation declare could invoke federal query jurisdiction if: (1) it essentially raises a federal situation, (2) the federal situation is definitely disputed, (3) the federal situation is substantial, and (4) a federal discussion board could entertain the state regulation declare with out upsetting the stability of federal and state judicial tasks. The defendant glad that take a look at on this case. 

The Hawkins court docket concluded that federal query jurisdiction existed within the case because of the negligence per se declare. To invoke negligence per se, the plaintiff in Hawkins alleged violations of each federal and Missouri state statutes regarding well being care transparency. However the state regulation declare was clearly hooey; the state statute utilized solely to fraud of Missouri’s  Medicaid  program, which was not at situation right here. Consequently, the negligence per se declare lived or died primarily based on the declare of a federal violation — particularly 42 CFR part 180.50, “a federal regulation that Plaintiff invoked all through her criticism.”  The court docket recited 5 paragraphs within the criticism grousing over alleged violations of the federal regulation. 

As talked about above, the Hawkins court docket relied on the Eight Circuit resolution in Wullschleger, a case introduced by consumers of prescription pet meals. The appellate court docket in Wullschleger held that the plaintiffs’ “dependence on federal regulation [the FDCA] permeates the allegations such that the antitrust and unjust enrichment claims can’t be adjudicated with out reliance on and explication of federal regulation.”  Hawkins additionally relied on the SCOTUS resolution in Grable, by which it was held {that a} state regulation quiet title motion raised a federal query as a result of the difficulty was whether or not the IRS had complied with federal regulation when it seized sure property. 

Thoughts you, federal query jurisdiction might be complicated. Do you bear in mind the primary time in regulation faculty you heard of the well-pleaded criticism rule and thought it was a bit loopy?  No less than with Grable and Wullschleger and, now, Hawkins, we protection hacks have some assist in flushing out plaintiffs who search to use alleged federal violations but in addition search to savor the house cooking of state courts.  

The plaintiff in Hawkins tried to flee the drive of Wullschleger and Grable by arguing that the federal regulation she invoked was merely another foundation. That argument failed as a result of there actually was no different because the state regulation situation turned out to be a nonissue. The plaintiff in Hawkins additionally asserted that the federal query was not “substantial” as a result of it didn’t contain “almost pure problems with regulation” such that its decision could be dispositive of the case and controlling in different instances.  Huh? No matter which means, it “ignores the truth that the Courtroom must interpret and determine the negligence per se situation on its interpretation of federal regulation.”  The federal situation was clearly in dispute as a result of the defendant denied that the “Visitation charge” violated the federal laws.  Lastly, there was no cause to consider that the court docket’s resolution relating to the federal regulation would “upset the stability of federal and state judicial tasks” (that “stability” notion elicits one other “Huh?” from us). 

The negligence per se declare in Hawkins couldn’t survive with out the federal query being resolved. As a result of the negligence per se declare was detachable, the complete motion was detachable.  Toodle-oo, St. Louis Metropolis court docket.

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