by Ben Vernia | March 6th, 2013
On March 1, Middle District of Tennessee Judge Todd J. Campbell granted the motion of plaintiffs to remand their case, Prickette v. Lind. The plaintiffs were a husband and wife who alleged that their infant son died and his twin sister suffered permanent injury as a result of the defendants’ medical malpractice. Their complaint alleged that defendants failed to diagnose their childrens’ condition, but billed Tricare - the Department of Defense’s insurance program - for those procedures. The defendants argued that these allegations necessarily depended on the construction of federal law, the False Claims Act, and so the complaint was removable to federal court under the substantial-federal-question doctrine.
Reviewing the plaintiffs’ complaint, Judge Campbell rejected the defendants’ effort to characterize it as invoking the FCA:
Plaintiffs have not referred or cited to federal law in general, or the FCA in particular. As the Court reads the fraud claim, the reference to the Defendants billing of Tricare for reading the images when they had not done so is an effort to provide proof of a misrepresentation and to suggest the seriousness of the alleged misrepresentation, rather than an effort to bring suit on behalf of the federal government to recover billing costs under the FCA. Plaintiffs’ description of damages extends over four pages of the Second Amended Original Complaint and includes no request for recovery of the amount billed to Tricare or on behalf of the United States. Plaintiffs’ fraud claim does not raise a disputed federal issue providing this Court with subject matter jurisdiction.
Judge Campbell likewise rejected the defendants’ argument that the complete preemption doctrine required removal, because the FCA vests exclusive jurisdiction in the federal court:
Plaintiffs’ fraud claim has not been brought under the FCA, does not require interpretation of the FCA, and does not request relief under the FCA. Therefore, there is no “complete preemption,” and this Court has no subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ fraud claim.