United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
Estate of BERNICE KEKONA, by its Personal Representative, Darlene Bloyed, Plaintiff,
ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., et al., Defendants.
C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to
remand (Dkt. No. 72). Having thoroughly considered the
parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court
hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons explained herein.
Court has described the facts of this case in a previous
order and will not repeat them here. (See Dkt. No.
22 at 1-3.) Plaintiffs initially filed this case in state
court and, in January 2018, Defendants removed it on the
basis of federal question jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 1.) In
February 2019, Defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment. (Dkt. No. 56.) In March 2019, Plaintiff filed a
motion to remand the case to state court, arguing that a July
2018 Ninth Circuit decision established that this Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 72.)
defendant may timely remove a state court action to federal
court if the federal court in question has original
jurisdiction over the dispute. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). As
the removing party, Defendants have the burden of
establishing that removal is proper, and the Court must
resolve all doubts as to removability in favor of remand.
See Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.
1992). “If at any time before final judgment it appears
that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction,
the case shall be remanded.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
In their notice of removal, Defendants asserted that this
Court has federal question jurisdiction over this case. (Dkt.
No. 1 at 3-6.)
Federal Question Jurisdiction
district courts have original jurisdiction over “all
civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
To properly remove based on federal question jurisdiction, a
defendant must show that the plaintiff's
“well-pleaded complaint establishes either that federal
law creates the cause of action or that the plaintiff's
right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a
substantial question of federal law.” Proctor v.
Vishay Intertechnology Inc., 584 F.3d 1208, 1219 (9th
Cir. 2009) (quoting Empire Healthchoice Assurance, Inc.
v. McVeigh, 547 U.S. 677, 689-90 (2006)). With regard to
the latter option, the Supreme Court has clarified that
“federal jurisdiction over a state law claim will lie
if a federal issue is: (1) necessarily raised, (2) actually
disputed, (3) substantial, and (4) capable of resolution in
federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance
approved by Congress.” Gunn v. Minton, 568
U.S. 251, 258 (2013). Despite the fact that she appears to
allege that her complaint once pled causes of action under
the Air Carrier Access Act (“ACAA”) (see
Dkt. No. 81 at 1-2, 5-6), Plaintiff's complaint pleads
state law causes of action (see Dkt. No. 1-2 at
15-17, 19-20), and both parties agree that the ACAA
establishes the standard of care owed to Plaintiff (Dkt. Nos.
56 at 9-10, 66 at 13-15, 72, 80). Defendants assert that
Plaintiff's state law claims necessarily depend on
resolution of a substantial question of federal law. (Dkt.
substantiality inquiry . . . looks . . . to the importance of
the issue to the federal system as a whole, ” and is
not concerned with the “importance of the issue to the
plaintiff's case and to the parties before it.”
Gunn, 568 U.S. at 260. Normally, state tort claims
that apply federal standards of care do not give rise to
federal question jurisdiction. See Id. at 259-60;
Grable & Sons Metal Prod., Inc. v. Darue Eng'g
& Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312-14 (2005); Merrell Dow
Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808-12, 814
(1986). However, rare state tort claims that require the
court to resolve a substantial issue of federal law may give
rise to federal question jurisdiction. See Grable,
545 U.S. at 315.
Defendants argue that Plaintiff's state tort claims give
rise to federal question jurisdiction because the Court must
decide whether ACAA regulations require air carriers to do
more than the regulations' plain language suggests.
(See Dkt. No. 80.) Specifically, Defendants argue
that this case turns on whether the ACAA requires air
carriers to always provide assistance to a disabled passenger
if that service is requested ahead of time, regardless of
whether the passenger later declines that service. (See
id.) Although this question may be a substantial issue
of federal law, it is not one that the deciding court will
necessarily be required to answer. In her summary judgment
briefing, Plaintiff argues that Ms. Kekona did not decline
the service and that Defendants breached their duty by simply
failing to provide services that were requested.
(See Dkt. No. 66.) In other words, the deciding
court will not have to determine whether the ACAA requires
air carriers to do more than the regulations outline because
Plaintiff does not allege that Defendants violated the ACAA
by failing to provide services to Ms. Kekona, regardless of
whether Ms. Kekona declined those services. This case does
not involve interpretation of federal law; instead, it is a
“garden variety” state tort claim, which, like
many state tort claims, happens to have a federal standard of
care. Therefore, there is no federal question jurisdiction
and the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction in this case.
foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's motion to remand (Dkt. No.
72) is GRANTED. The Clerk is DIRECTED to terminate as moot