Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Federal Jurisdiction — State Tort Law Action Premised on Misconduct in Federal Litigation and Violation of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Not Removable under Grable

From Waris v. Ormond, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66687 (E.D. Pa. July 27, 2009):

This case arises out of three earlier actions, Waris v. HCR Manor Care, U.S.D.C. E.D. Pa., No. 07-cv-3344; Waris v. Keystone Health Plan East. Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Civ. No. 05-12718; and Waris v. Frick, U.S.D.C. E.D. Pa., No. 06-5189. Plaintiff alleges that the defendants and the attorneys who represented the defendants in Manor Care, Keystone and Frick engaged in misconduct during the course of the litigation.


Defendants argue that ... federal question jurisdiction still exists, and removal was proper. Defendants argue that at least some of Plaintiff's claims, while nominally state law claims, involve substantial federal issues. The remaining claims are violation of the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 682, Civil Conspiracy to Abuse Process, Intra-Litigation Bad Faith, Negligence, and Tortious Interference with Prospective Contractual Relations. The court is not persuaded that these state law claims involve a substantial federal question

Generally, "federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S. Ct. 2425, 96 L. Ed. 2d 318 (1987). However, "in certain cases federal-question jurisdiction will lie over state-law claims that implicate significant federal issues." Grable & Sons Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312, 125 S. Ct. 2363, 162 L. Ed. 2d 257 (2005). Such federal-question exists only if "a state-law claim necessarily raise[s] a stated federal issue, actually disputed and substantial, which a federal forum may entertain without disturbing any congressionally approved balance of federal and state judicial responsibilities." Id. at 314.

Defendants argue that federal question jurisdiction exists in this case because Plaintiff's allegations are based on events that occurred in federal court and because Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The cases Defendants cite do not support such broad propositions. First, Defendants cite U.S. Express Line Ltd. v. Higgins, in which the court found that a claim of malicious abuse of process was properly removed from the state court to federal court. See 281 F.3d 383 (3d Cir. 2002). The U.S. Express Lines court held that "[w]here a plaintiff's complaint requires the juxtaposition of a court of appeals decision and an apparently conflicting procedural rule, the federal courts may properly claim jurisdiction." Id. at 391. U.S. Express Lines does not support the much broader conclusion that any state law tort claim may be removed to federal court if it is based on conduct that occurred in federal court. See Lane v. CBS Broad. Inc., 612 F. Supp.2d 623, 634 n.6 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (rejecting argument that "when a claim is based upon proceedings in a federal court, the federal issues involved are necessarily 'substantial'" and noting more limited holding of U.S. Express Lines). Nor does U.S. Express Lines support the conclusion that a state law tort claim may be removed to federal court whenever a plaintiff alleges that defendants have violated a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. Cf. Grable, 545 U.S. at 318-19 (explaining that alleged violation of federal statute or regulation, as part of tort claim, does not necessarily create federal question jurisdiction). Rather, U.S. Express Lines provides only that federal jurisdiction exists where the case involves a conflict between a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure and federal case law. Defendants in this case do not argue that there is any such conflict.

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