United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Russell, III United States District Judge
TO COUNSEL RE:
before the Court are Defendants’, Cigna Health and Life
Insurance Co. and Connecticut General Life Insurance Company
(collectively, “Cigna”), Motion to Dismiss the
Small Claim Complaint and in the Alternative to Transfer (ECF
No. 18), and Plaintiff’s, Westminster Surgery Center,
LLC (“Westminster”), Motion to Remand (ECF No.
23). The Motions are ripe for disposition. Having considered
the Motions and the supporting documents, the Court finds no
hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.4 (D.Md.
2016). For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant the
Motion to Transfer and deny the Motion to Remand.
6, 2015, Westminster filed this action in the District Court
for Carroll County, Maryland, raising a “bad faith
insurance claim” against Cigna. (ECF No. 1-1). On
September 1, 2015, Cigna filed Notices of Intention to
Defend. (ECF No. 1-2). On October 23, 2015, Westminster filed
an Amended Complaint changing the claim to one for breach of
contract. (ECF No. 2). On November 10, 2015, Cigna’s
counsel received an email stating that the information in the
Complaint and Amended Complaint was inaccurate and the
insurance plan implicated in this matter is governed by the
Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et
seq. (2012). (ECF No. 1-5). On November 24, 2015, Cigna
removed the action to this Court based on federal-question
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (2012). (ECF No. 1).
December 1, 2015, Cigna filed a Motion to Dismiss the Small
Claim Complaint and in the Alternative to Transfer. (ECF No.
18). On December 18, 2015, Westminster filed a Motion to
Remand and Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 23).
Cigna filed an Opposition to the Motion to Remand and a Reply
in support of its Motion on January 7, 2016. (ECF No. 24). On
January 27, 2016, Westminster filed a Reply in support of its
Motion. (ECF No. 25).
defendant may remove any civil action brought in a state
court of which a federal district court has original
jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A district court has
original jurisdiction over civil claims arising under federal
law. Id. § 1331. When the plaintiff challenges
the propriety of removal, the defendant bears the burden of
proving that removal was proper. Mulcahey v. Columbia
Organic Chems. Co., 29 F.3d 148, 151 (4th Cir. 1994). On
a motion to remand, the court must “strictly construe
the removal statute and resolve all doubts in favor of
remanding the case to state court.” Richardson v.
Phillip Morris Inc., 950 F.Supp. 700, 702 (D.Md. 1997)
(quoting Creekmore v. Food Lion, Inc., 797 F.Supp.
505, 507 (E.D.Va. 1992)). “[I]f the case stated by the
initial pleading is not removable, a notice of removal may be
filed within 30 days after receipt by the defendant, through
service or otherwise, of a copy of . . . [any] other paper
from which it may first be ascertained that the case is one
which is or has become removable.” 28 U.S.C. §
1446(b)(3). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit has determined that the “other paper’
requirement is broad enough to include any information
received by the defendant, ‘whether communicated in a
formal or informal manner.’” Link Telecomms.,
Inc. v. Sapperstein, 119 F.Supp.2d 536, 542 (D.Md. 2000)
(quoting Yarnevic v. Brink’s, Inc., 102 F.3d
753, 755 (4th Cir. 1996)).
undisputed that the face of the original and Amended
Complaints include inaccurate patient and employer
information. Cigna first learned that the Complaints were
inaccurate on November 10, 2015 in an email from counsel in a
related case. Such an email can be considered “other
paper” under § 1446(b)(3). Upon investigation of
the information provided in the November 10, 2015 email,
Cigna then determined that this matter involved an insurance
plan governed by ERISA. Cigna filed its Notice of Removal
within thirty days of receiving the email-on November 24,
2015. As such, the Court concludes that this matter was
timely removed and will deny the Motion to Remand.
to Dismiss or Transfer
and Cigna agree that this matter should be transferred to
United States District Court for the District of Colorado
pursuant to the first-to-file rule. “When multiple
suits are filed in different federal courts involving the
same factual issues, courts usually permit the first-filed
action to proceed to the exclusion of the subsequently filed
suit.” Traylor v. Tropicana Prods., Inc., No.
812-cv-01435-AW, 2012 WL 2564817, at *2 (D.Md. June 29,
2012). This first-to-file rule “generally affords
‘priority, for purposes of choosing among possible
venues when parallel litigation has been instituted in
separate courts, to the party who first establishes
jurisdiction.’” LWRC Int’l, LLC v.
Mindlab Media, LLC, 838 F.Supp.2d 330, 337 (D.Md. 2011)
(quoting Nw. Airlines, Inc. v. Am. Airlines, Inc.,
989 F.2d 1002, 1006 (8th Cir. 1993)).
admits that the action in the U.S. District Court for the
District of Colorado was filed in December 2013 and “is
already . . . pending between these parties involving the
same issues.” (ECF No. 23-1). The Court will,
therefore, grant Cigna’s Motion and transfer this case
to the District of Colorado.
foregoing reasons, Cigna’s Motion to Dismiss the Small
Claim Complaint and in the Alternative to Transfer (ECF No.
18) is GRANTED and Westminster’s Motion to Remand (ECF
No. 23) is DENIED. The Clerk shall TRANSFER this matter to
the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. Despite
the informal nature of this memorandum, it shall constitute
an Order of this Court, and the Clerk is directed to docket
it accordingly and CLOSE this case.