United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
TERRI M. YATES, Plaintiff,
SYMETRA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Symetra Life
Insurance Company's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) and
Plaintiff Terri M. Yates's Motion for Order Remanding
this Case Back to the Circuit Court of Phelps County,
Missouri (ECF No. 7). Defendant is opposed to the motion to
remand, and that motion is fully briefed. Ms. Yates failed to
submit a response within seven days in accordance with this
district's local rules, see E.D.Mo. L.R.
4.01(B), and the time to do so has since passed.
Terri M. Yates originally filed this case in state court
alleging she entered into a contract with Defendant to
provide insurance coverage on her spouse, Johnny Ray Yates,
to provide coverage on his life in the amount of $50, 000 if
he were to die by accidental means. (Pet. ¶¶ 6
& 8, ECF No. 4) Ms. Yates states Mr. Yates died as the
result of an accident on December 20, 2016 while the
accidental spousal death benefit policy was in full force and
effect. (Id. at ¶¶ 11 -12) Ms. Yates
alleges Defendant has not paid the amount due to her in
accordance with the policy, and she has sued for breach of
contract. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-14) Defendant
removed the case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1441(c), claiming Ms. Yates's claim is subject to
and governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(ERISA) of 1974, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et
seq. (ECF No. 1) Ms. Yates moves to remand the case to
state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
may remove an action to federal court only if it could have
been brought in federal court originally. Junk v.
Terminix Int'l Co, 628 F.3d 439, 444 (8th Cir. 2010)
(citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)-(b)). In removal cases, the
Court reviews the state court petition and the notice of
removal in order to determine whether it has jurisdiction.
Branch v. Wheaton Van Lines, Inc., No. 4:14CV01735
AGF, 2014 WL 6461372, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 17, 2014).
"Where the defendant seeks to invoke federal
jurisdiction through removal, ... it bears the burden of
proving that the jurisdictional threshold is satisfied."
Bell v. Hershey Co., 557 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir.
2009). "[A] case is ordinarily not removable on federal
question grounds unless the federal question is presented on
the face of the plaintiffs complaint." Kaufman v.
Boone Ctr., Inc., No. 4:11CV286 CDP, 2011 WL 1564052, at
*1 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 25, 2011). A plaintiff may move to remand
the case if the district court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction. Junk, 628 F.3d at 444 (citing 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c)). District courts are to resolve all
doubts regarding federal jurisdiction in favor of remand.
Hubbard v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 799 F.3d 1224,
1227 (8th Cir. 2015).
Yates argues the Court should remand the case because the
benefit policy at issue is exempt from ERISA under the
"safe harbor" provision promulgated by the
Department of Labor. The so-called "safe harbor"
provision, 29 C.F.R. § 2510.3-l(j), provides:
Certain group or group-type insurance programs. For purposes
of title I of the Act and this chapter, the terms
"employee welfare benefit plan" and "welfare
plan" shall not include a group or group-type insurance
program offered by an insurer to employees or members of an
employee organization, under which
(1) No contributions are made by an employer or employee
(2) Participation the program is completely voluntary for
employees or members;
(3) The sole functions of the employer or employee
organization with respect to the program are, without
endorsing the program, to permit the insurer to publicize the
program to employees or members, to collect premiums through
payroll deductions or dues checkoffs and to remit them to the
(4) The employer or employee organization receives no
consideration in the form of cash or otherwise in connection
with the program, other than reasonable compensation,
excluding any profit, for administrative services actually
rendered in connection with payroll deductions or dues
to Ms. Yates, the accidental spousal death benefit policy
satisfies the first two requirements of the safe harbor
provision because it was voluntary and she was the
policyholder who made all contributions. Thus, she concludes
the policy is not ...