South-Western Legal Studies in Business

To Remove Case from State to Federal Court, Federal Law Must Be Clearly Involved
Description Federal court ordered a case remanded to state court since all claims of plaintiffs were based on state law. Defendant had no strong legal argument for removal to federal court, so would cover the attorney fees and costs incurred by plaintiffs in contesting the removal action.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Removal of Cases; Attorney Fees
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A proposed class of Wisconsin employees of Wal-Mart sued the company in state court in Wisconsin for alleged violations of Wisconsin employment statutes and for various Wisconsin common law claims, including breach of implied contract. All claims were based on Wisconsin law. Wal-Mart removed the case to federal court because, it claimed, the obligations of Wisconsin employment law concerning wages and hours necessarily would bring in federal wage and hours laws. Plaintiffs requested the federal judge remand the case back to state court.
Decision

Motion for remand granted. No substantial claim in the employees’ state law action was founded directly on federal law, and, thus, removal to federal court was not appropriate. The complaint made no mention of federal law and expressly disavowed reliance on federal law, basing all claims on Wisconsin law. The fact that Wisconsin law may be consistent with federal law does not mean that federal law governs the case. In such cases, courts may shift the attorney fees, as will be done here. Wal-Mart will pay employees’ attorney fees and costs incurred in opposing removal of their action since Wal-Mart had little basis for removal.

Citation In re: Wal-Mart Employee Litigation, --- F.Supp.2d --- (2003 WL 21635316, E.D. Wisc., 2003)

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