Silva v. Medic Ambulance Services: EMTs’ Mooted On-Call Claims Remanded to State Court and Avoid Article III Dismissal

RSS Feed

In Silva v. Medic Ambulance Services, Inc., 9th Cir., No. 20-16135, memorandum 5/4/21 (unpublished mem. available here), the plaintiff, an Emergency Medical Technician, alleged in her state law complaint that her employer, Medic Ambulance Service, Inc. (“Medic”) violated California Labor Code § 226.7 and the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order by requiring her to remain on call during rest periods. Mem. at 1. Medic removed the action to the district court on the grounds that the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”) completely preempted at least one of plaintiff’s claims and therefore presented a federal question. Id. at 2.

The plaintiff moved to remand. The district court denied the motion, reasoning that her claims were preempted because they “substantially depend on analysis of” the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) that governed the terms of the plaintiff’s employment with Medic.  The plaintiff then appealed. The Ninth Circuit reversed, finding that Silva’s state law claims were not preempted because they were not substantially dependent on the CBA (i.e. she could prove them without resort to the CBA), and that the district court therefore lacked removal jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit remanded the matter back to the district court with instructions to remand the action back to the state court.

What makes this case interesting is that the Emergency Ambulance Employee Safety and Preparedness Act, California Labor Code §§ 880, et seq. (“the Act”), became effective on December 19, 2019, before judgment was entered, potentially mooting plaintiff’s claim under section 226.7. Section 887 provides, in pertinent part, “[n]otwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary: (a) In order to maximize protection of public health and safety, emergency ambulance employees shall remain reachable by a portable communications device throughout the entirety of each work shift.” According to the concurring opinion, as a result of the Act, the plaintiff no longer had a viable statutory claim, there was no longer any “case or controversy,” and therefore plaintiff lacked Article III standing to pursue the appeal. Rawlinson, J. conc. at 1-3.

The majority of the justices did not reach the issue of whether section 887(a) eliminated plaintiff’s claim, finding it moot in light of its determination that “the federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over Silva’s claims.” Mem. at 4, n.1. This is important in a procedural sense since the district court never properly had subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff’s claims, since they were never actually preempted by the LMRA. Remand is the proper remedy when a federal court lacks removal jurisdiction, not dismissal under Article III. 

Authored by:
Robert Friedl, Senior Counsel