United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
RICHARD A. JONES, District Judge.
This matter comes before the court on a motion from Plaintiff Body Recovery Clinic LLC (the "Clinic") to remand this action to King County Superior Court. No party requested oral argument, and the court finds oral argument unnecessary. For the reasons stated herein, the court GRANTS the motion to remand (Dkt. # 9) and directs the clerk to REMAND this action to King County Superior Court.
The court first reviews the allegations of the Clinic's complaint, suggesting no opinion on the truth of those allegations.
The Clinic provides acupuncture and massage services to Washington residents. Some of its customers are people who have suffered injuries in car accidents. Some of them, in turn, carry personal injury protection ("PIP") coverage in car insurance policies from insurers affiliated with two insurance companies, who the court will refer to for purposes of this motion as Safeco and USAA. Those policies, according to the Clinic, obligate the insurers to pay all reasonable and necessary medical expenses arising out of a covered accident. Typically, the insurers pay the Clinic directly for covered services to their insureds. The insureds formally or informally assign their rights to recover to the Clinic.
For a period of more than two years (in Safeco's case) and about nine months (in USAA's case), the insurance companies used Auto Injury Solutions, Inc. ("AIS") to process PIP claims not only from customers of the Clinic, but from all Washington health care providers who served their PIP insureds. AIS used an "Ingenix" database to evaluate those claims. The Ingenix database compared the Clinic's charges for covered services with other providers' charges and flagged charges that were above the 85th percentile (in Safeco's case) or the 80th percentile (in USAA's case) of all providers' charges in the geographic area. The insurance companies then paid the Clinic at the reduced rate corresponding to the 85th or 80th percentile.
The Clinic sued in King County Superior Court, naming as Defendants only AIS and Concentra, Inc., which is allegedly AIS's parent company. AIS and Concentra contend that the Clinic erred in assessing their corporate structure, but they do not contend that error is material to the motion before the court. AIS and Concentra both concede that they are not domiciled in Washington. For simplicity, the court will refer to AIS as the sole Defendant.
The Clinic raises three causes of action: one asserts that AIS violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act; one asserts that AIS was part of a civil conspiracy with USAA and Safeco to violate Washington insurance laws; and one asserts that AIS was unjustly enriched. All of those causes of action arise solely under Washington law. The Clinic hopes to pursue these claims not only on its own behalf, but on behalf of a class of similarly-situated Washington healthcare providers.
AIS timely removed the action to this court. It asserted only traditional diversity jurisdiction as a basis for removal; it claimed that the Clinic and it were of diverse citizenship and that the amount in controversy between them exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). AIS did not invoke the removal provisions of the Class Action Fairness Act. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d) (permitting removal of certain class actions in which the total amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000).
The Clinic has moved to remand. The sole factual dispute that the motion raises is whether the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. The court now considers the motion.
Federal law generally permits a defendant to remove a state court action that could have been brought in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). There is, however, a strong presumption against removal jurisdiction. Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).
A. The Complaint Does Not Allege that the Amount in Controversy Exceeds $75, 000 and AIS Has No Evidence ...