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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:James Woods appeals the denial of his motion to remand to state court and the orders dismissing and compelling arbitration of this case. Woods, a former employee of the defendant, Texas Aggregates LLC (Texas Aggregates), was injured on the job. He brought a common law suit in Texas state court, alleging that Texas Aggregates’ negligent maintenance of an unsafe workplace caused his injuries. Texas Aggregates does not participate in the Texas Workers’ Compensation system but instead maintains an Occupational Injury Benefit Plan (the plan), which the parties agree is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. ��1001-1461. Texas Aggregates removed the case to federal court, arguing that Woods’s suit seeks damages that duplicate benefits available under the plan and therefore is preempted by ERISA. The district court denied Woods’s motion to remand, then ordered the parties to arbitrate, as provided for by the plan, and dismissed the case. Woods filed this appeal, and Texas Aggregates moved that the appeal be dismissed because no final, appealable order had issued. We denied that motion because the orders compelling arbitration and dismissing the case constituted a final, appealable disposition. We have jurisdiction to hear this case on that basis. HOLDING:Vacated and remanded. In determining whether state law claims “relate to” a plan, we have commonly asked 1. whether the state law claims address areas of exclusive federal concern, such as the right to receive benefits under the terms of an ERISA plan; and 2. whether the claims directly affect the relationship among the traditional ERISA entities the employer, the plan and its fiduciaries, and the participants and beneficiaries. Mem. Hosp. Sys. v. Northbrook Life Ins. Co., 904 F.2d 236 (5th Cir. 1990). The court is bound by Hook v. Morrison Milling Co., 38 F.3d 776 (5th Cir. 1994), to hold that Woods’ claims do not “relate to” the plan. Hook sued her employer in Texas court for negligent failure to maintain a safe workplace. Hook’s claims were made exclusively on the basis of the alleged breach of a common law tort duty and did not involve plan benefits or the administration of the plan in any way. The damages Hook sought in her suit overlapped with benefits that might have been available under her employer’s ERISA plan. The Hook court held that preemption did not apply, because Hook’s common law claims did not “relate to” the plan at issue. The situation in Hook is virtually indistinguishable from that found here, the court decides. The state law claims raised by Woods do not “relate to” Texas Aggregates’ ERISA plan and are therefore not preempted by ERISA �514(a). Section 502(a) may provide for preemption where �514(a) is inapplicable by operation of one of �514′s exemptions from pre-emption. Texas Aggregates points to no case, however (and we are aware of none), in which �502(a) preemption was found to be proper where the state law claims did not “relate to” the ERISA plan under our �514(a) analysis. The set of claims described by �502(a) will rarely, if ever, differ from the set of claims that “relate to” an ERISA plan under �514(a). Texas Aggregates offers no compelling reasons why the court should employ �502(a) to find pre-emption of a claim, like Woods’, that does not “relate to” an ERISA plan, the court decides. Further, the language of �502(a) counsels against complete pre-emption here. By this suit Woods does not seek to recover benefits due him under the plan, to enforce his rights under it, or to clarify his rights to future benefits under it. Rather, he hopes to recover damages for injuries he suffered as a result of Texas Aggregates’ alleged breach of its duty to provide him with a safe workplace. His cause of action would exist, in precisely the same form as it was pleaded in state court, even if there were no such thing as the Texas Aggregates ERISA plan. ERISA does not preempt such claims. OPINION:Jerry E. Smith, J.; Smith, Garza and Owen, J.J.

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