166 F.3d 1102 (11th Cir. 1999), 98-6147, Slamen v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co.

Docket Nº:98-6147.
Citation:166 F.3d 1102
Party Name:Weekly Fed. C 466 Herbert A. SLAMEN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. PAUL REVERE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, a corporation, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:February 01, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 1102

166 F.3d 1102 (11th Cir. 1999)

Weekly Fed. C 466

Herbert A. SLAMEN, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

PAUL REVERE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, a corporation, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 98-6147.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

February 1, 1999

Page 1103

Nolan E. Awbrey, Bruce J. McKee, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Mark D. Hess, London & Yancey, LLC, Birmingham, AL, for Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Before DUBINA and BARKETT, Circuit Judges, and JONES [*], Senior Circuit Judge.

BARKETT, Circuit Judge:

Appellant Herbert Slamen appeals from an adverse post-trial order dismissing his claim for disability insurance benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq. ("ERISA"). 1 Slamen contends that his disability insurance policy was not governed by ERISA and that the federal district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over his suit against the Paul Revere Life Insurance Co. for refusing to pay benefits under Slamen's policy. Slamen contends that the district court should have remanded the case to the Alabama state courts, permitting Slamen's state law breach of contract and tort claims to proceed.

BACKGROUND

On February 1, 1981, Slamen's solely-owned dental practice established a health plan providing health and life insurance coverage from the Centennial Life Insurance Company for Slamen and his employees. 2 This plan did not provide disability benefits to any employee. In 1985, Slamen purchased a disability insurance policy from Paul Revere, which only covered himself. As with the health and life insurance policies, the premiums under the disability insurance policy

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were paid by Slamen's professional corporation, "Herbert A. Slamen, D.M.D., P.C."

On December 11, 1996, as a result of Paul Revere's refusal to pay benefits under Slamen's disability insurance policy, Slamen filed this action in the Circuit Court for Jefferson County, Alabama alleging that Paul Revere's refusal to pay was in breach of contract and was tortious. Paul Revere removed the case to federal court and Slamen sought a remand to the state courts. The district court denied the motion to remand and dismissed Slamen's state law claims as preempted by ERISA, allowing Slamen leave to amend for the purpose of stating an ERISA claim. After a bench trial, the district court entered judgment for Paul Revere on Slamen's ERISA claim. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

The sole issue raised on appeal is whether Slamen's disability insurance policy is an ERISA employee welfare benefit plan. If Slamen's disability insurance policy is governed by ERISA, the district court correctly recharacterized Slamen's claims as ERISA claims and denial of the motion to remand was proper because ERISA claims arise under federal law. Whitt v. Sherman Int'l Corp., 147 F.3d 1325, 1329-30 (11th Cir.1998). However, if Slamen's disability insurance policy is not an ERISA plan and Slamen was not entitled to seek relief under ERISA, "no federal question jurisdiction exists" and the case must be remanded to the state courts. Id. at 1330.

ERISA defines an employee welfare benefit plan as

any plan, fund, or program which was heretofore or is...

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