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Gwozdz v. HealthPort Technologies, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

January 24, 2017

LAWRENCE GWOZDZ, Individually and on behalf of Donna Gwozdz and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
HEALTHPORT TECHNOLOGIES, LLC, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: December 9, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. Roger W. Titus, Senior District Judge. (8:15-cv-02251-RWT)

         ARGUED:

          Jonathan Barry Nace, ANTONOPLOS & ASSOCIATES, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

          Alec Winfield Farr, BRYAN CAVE LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Barry J. Nace, PAULSON & NACE, PLLC, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

          Before WILKINSON, NIEMEYER, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.

         Vacated and remanded with instructions by published opinion. Judge Wilkinson wrote the opinion, in which Judge Niemeyer and Judge Diaz joined.

          WILKINSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE:

         Lawrence Gwozdz challenges HealthPort's collection of $23 in sales tax on the sale of medical records. Under the Tax Injunction Act (TIA), federal courts may not "enjoin, suspend or restrain the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law where a plain, speedy and efficient remedy may be had in the courts of such State." 28 U.S.C. § 1341. Here, Maryland has established just such a remedy. Because the TIA and the related principle of federal-state comity operate to deprive us of jurisdiction, we vacate the judgment of dismissal and remand to the district court with instructions to return the action to state court. See Lawyer v. Hilton Head Pub. Serv. Dist. No. 1, 220 F.3d 298, 306 (4th Cir. 2000) (remanding removed portion of consolidated case to state court due to jurisdictional bar of TIA).

         I.

         Gwozdz requested his wife's medical records from two Maryland hospitals, which forwarded his inquiries to their contractor, HealthPort Technologies, LLC. Before releasing the documents, HealthPort sent Gwozdz two itemized invoices demanding that he pay a total of $23 in sales tax, along with other fees. Gwozdz protested, insisting that Maryland exempted the sale of medical records from its general sales tax and that the $23 charge was therefore unlawful. HealthPort defended the tax and refused to send the records unless Gwozdz pre-paid in full. Despite his misgivings, he did so.

         Next, Gwozdz filed a class action complaint against HealthPort in Maryland state court seeking damages and injunctive relief. HealthPort removed the case under the Class Action Fairness Act. Instead of requesting a refund, the typical relief sought for an improperly paid tax, the operative complaint asserts several statutory consumer protection claims and a ...


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