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Cox v. Air Methods Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Bluefield

May 30, 2018

MICHAEL AND TABITHA COX, individually and on behalf of their minor child, W.C., Plaintiffs,
v.
AIR METHODS CORPORATION and ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOLDINGS, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David A. Faber Senior United States District Judge.

         Pending before the court is (1) Plaintiffs' Amended Motion to Remand (ECF No. 12) and (2) Defendants' Motion to Transfer or Stay (ECF No. 6). For the reasons that follow, the court denies plaintiffs' motion to remand and stays this matter pending the dispositive motion to dismiss currently before the United States District Court for the District of Colorado in Scarlett v. Air Methods Corporation, et al.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual History

         On August 18, 2017, plaintiffs filed a putative class action against defendants, Air Methods Corporation and its holding company, Rocky Mountain Holdings, LLC (collectively “Defendants”). Defendants provide air ambulance services in West Virginia and other states. Plaintiffs' child W.C. was hospitalized at Princeton Community Hospital in Princeton, West Virginia and required air transportation to CAMC Women's and Children's Hospital in Charleston, West Virginia. Complaint at ¶ 14. Defendants transported W.C. the necessary 76 rotor miles. Id. at ¶¶ 14-16. No. written contract or verbal agreement memorialized these services. Id. at ¶ 15.

         Plaintiffs received a bill for $52, 634.76 from Defendants. Id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiffs' insurer, West Virginia Public Employee Insurance Agency (“PEIA”) paid Defendants $6, 704.14. Id. at ¶ 17. PEIA also concluded that plaintiffs would be responsible to pay $586.79. Id. Nevertheless, plaintiffs received a bill from Defendants for $45, 930.62, the amount unpaid by PEIA. Id. at ¶¶ 17-18. When Defendants requested additional payment from PEIA, the insurer refused, stating in a May 6, 2016 letter that the additional $45, 930.62 “is clearly excessive.” See ECF 1-1, Ex. B. These excessive charges form the foundation for plaintiffs' claims: that Defendants actions constitute a breach of West Virginia implied contract law. Complaint at ¶¶ 36-41.

         Plaintiffs' claims are on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated West Virginians who have used Defendants' transportation services. Id. at ¶ 40. Plaintiffs define the proposed class as:

All patients who, without entering a written agreement with Defendants for medical transport prior to the transport, received medical transport by Defendants from a location in West Virginia to a healthcare facility during the period of five (5) years prior to the commencement of this action.

Id. at ¶ 27. The Complaint alleges “[u]pon information, the proposed class would include hundreds, if not thousands of class members.” Id. at ¶¶ 27-28. The action seeks damages for any overpayments collected by Defendants. In the alternative, plaintiffs request that the court enjoin Defendants from charging and collecting unreasonable rates. Id. at ¶¶ 36-51.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs originally filed their action in the Circuit Court of Mercer County, West Virginia on August 18, 2017. Id. Defendants removed the action to federal court on December 22, 2017, citing the removal requirements under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (“CAFA”) and traditional diversity jurisdiction. See ECF No. 1. Soon thereafter, Defendants filed a Motion to Transfer or Stay, seeking to either transfer this action to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado or stay the action until that court makes a ruling on a pending motion to dismiss. ECF No. 6. On January 22, 2018, plaintiffs filed a motion to remand the action to the Circuit Court of Mercer County. ECF No. 10. On the same date, plaintiffs filed the operative Amended Motion to Remand.[1] See ECF No. 12. Each motion has been fully briefed.[2] The court first reviews the jurisdictional issues raised in plaintiffs' Amended Motion to Remand and then proceeds to Defendants' Motion to Transfer or Stay.

         II. PLAINTIFFS' AMENDED MOTION TO REMAND

         Plaintiffs' amended motion to remand claims Defendants have offered insufficient evidence to establish that this action meets CAFA's jurisdictional threshold of at least 100 class members and $5, 000, 000 amount in controversy. ECF No. 13 at pp. 2-6. Id. The court disagrees and DENIES plaintiff's motion.

         A. Applicable Law

         A defendant may remove to federal district court “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction. . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Under CAFA, an action may be originally brought in federal court if it has (1) at least one member of the class who is a citizen of a state different than at least one of the defendants; (2) the class consists of at least one hundred members; and (3) the amount in controversy exceeds $5, 000, 000, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2). To properly remove an action under CAFA, a defendant must file a notice of removal “containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal.” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(a); see also Strawn v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 297 (4th Cir. 2008)

         While defendant bears the burden of alleging federal jurisdiction under CAFA, Strawn, 530 F.3d at 297, there is “no antiremoval presumption attend[ing] cases invoking CAFA . . . a defendant's notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold.” Dart Cherokee Basin Op. Co. v. Owens, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). If jurisdiction is challenged, the parties are required to submit proof and the court must determine if federal jurisdiction under CAFA has been met by a preponderance of the evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B); Dart, 135 S.Ct. at 553-54.

         The parties agree that CAFA's minimal diversity requirement is met. Therefore, the court assesses whether Defendants have demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence ...


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