United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
J. MCCONNELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), Marianne Burns seeks to have her
case remanded to the Rhode Island Superior Court where it was
originally filed, claiming that this Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction. ECF No. 7.
Burns alleges that she sustained personal injuries from an
automobile collision with a vehicle driven by Defendant Jerry
H. Gwyn that was rented from Defendant U-Haul of Providence.
Her state court complaint alleges only state law claims.
There is no diversity of citizenship among the parties. The
sole basis upon which U-Haul removed this case to federal
court was an assertion of federal question jurisdiction:
specifically, that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction
because the Graves Amendment to the Federal Transportation
Equity Act, 49 U.S.C. § 30106(a), preempts Ms.
Burns' state law claims.
Court need only turn to United States Supreme Court precedent
to determine it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this
Only state-court actions that originally could have been
filed in federal court may be removed to federal court by the
defendant. Absent diversity of citizenship, federal-question
jurisdiction is required. The presence or absence of
federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the
“well-pleaded complaint rule, ” which provides
that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question
is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly
pleaded complaint. See Gully v. First Nat'l
Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 112-113 (1936). The rule makes the
plaintiff the master of the claim; he or she may avoid
federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law.
Ordinarily federal pre-emption is raised as a defense to the
allegations in a plaintiff's complaint. Before 1887, a
federal defense such as preemption could provide a basis for
removal, but, in that year, Congress amended the removal
statute. We interpret that amendment to authorize removal
only where original federal jurisdiction exists. See
Act of Mar. 3, 1887, ch. 373, 24 Stat. 552, as amended by Act
of Aug. 13, 1888, ch. 866, 25 Stat. 433. Thus, it is now
settled law that a case may not be removed to
federal court on the basis of a federal defense, including
the defense of pre-emption, even if the defense is
anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint, and even if
both parties concede that the federal defense is the only
question truly at issue. See Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v.
Constr. Laborers Vacation Tr. for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1,
There does exist, however, an “independent
corollary” to the well-pleaded complaint rule,
id. at 22, known as the “complete
pre-emption” doctrine. On occasion, the Court has
concluded that the pre-emptive force of a statute is so
“extraordinary” that it “converts an
ordinary state common-law complaint into one stating a
federal claim for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint
rule.” Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481
U.S. 58, 65 (1987). Once an area of state law has been
completely pre-empted, any claim purportedly based on that
preempted state law is considered, from its inception, a
federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law.
See Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 24 (“[I]f a
federal cause of action completely pre-empts a state cause of
action any complaint that comes within the scope of the
federal cause of action necessarily ‘arises under'
The complete pre-emption corollary to the well-pleaded
complaint rule is applied primarily in cases raising claims
pre-empted by § 301 of the [Labor Management Relations
Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392-93
(1987) (footnotes omitted). 
federal question is presented on the face of Ms. Burns'
complaint. Only state law claims, common law and statutory,
are asserted in the complaint. The only interjection of a
federal question comes in U-Hauls anticipated assertion of a
federal statute as a defense. “Normally, federal
defenses including preemption do not by themselves
confer federal jurisdiction over a well-pleaded complaint
alleging only violations of state law.” Hotz v.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mass., Inc., 292 F.3d
57, 59 (1st Cir. 2002) (citing Franchise Tax Bd, 463
U.S. at 9-10, 25-27). U-Haul does not assert complete
preemption. Instead it asserts that “it is the
interpretation of federal law-not state law-that will be
critical to the resolution of this case.” ECF No. 13 at
2. But the Supreme Court has decided that even where
“the federal defense is the only question truly at
issue, ” a federal defense does not provide a basis for
removal to federal court. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at
Plaintiffs Motion to Remand this case to the Rhode Island
Superior Court (ECF No. 7) is GRANTED.