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Bartel v. Crowley Marine Services, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

October 1, 2014

WILLIAM E. BARTEL, as personal representative of the ESTATE OF RONALD L. KARNS
v.
CROWLEY MARINE SERVICES, INC., as successor by merger to DELTA STEAMSHIP LINES, INC. f/k/a MISSISSIPPI SHIPPING COMPANY, ET AL

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. (R. Doc. 7). The motion is opposed. (R. Doc. 8). Based on the undisputed facts and the applicable law as set forth below, Plaintiff's motion should be granted and the action should be remanded to state court.

I. BACKGROUND

William E. Bartel (Plaintiff), [1] personal representative of the Estate of Ronald L. Karns (Decedent), filed this action on March 12, 2014 in the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Petition, R. Doc. 1-1). Plaintiff alleges that between 1944 and 1972, Decedent was employed by the following Defendants: Crowley Marine Services, Inc., as successor by merger to Delta Steamship Lines, Inc., f/k/a Mississippi Shipping Co., Inc.; Delta Steamship Lines Inc.; Mississippi Shipping Company; Rio Grande Transport Inc.; and Waterman Steamship Corporation (Defendants) (Petition ¶¶ 2, 7-11). Plaintiff alleges that Decedent contracted and died of lung cancer as a result of asbestos exposure while working on vessels owned or operated by Defendants. (Petition ¶¶ 12-25). Plaintiff brings causes of action for recovery against the Defendants under both the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104 (Petition ¶¶ 26-27), and general maritime law (Petition ¶¶ 28-31). Plaintiff did not demand a jury trial.

Waterman Steamship Corporation filed a notice of removal on May 16, 2014. (R. Doc. 1). The remaining Defendants consented to the removal. (R. Doc. 2). Defendants allege that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims under the admiralty jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1) (saving to suitors clause), and that removal is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (removal of civil actions).

On June 13, 2014, Plaintiff moved to remand this action to state court. (R. Doc. 7). Plaintiff asserts that removal is improper because (1) his Jones Act claims are non-removable pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1445(a), and (2) his general maritime law claims are non-removable pursuant to the "saving to suitors" clause of 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1).

II. ARGUMENTS OF THE PARTIES

Plaintiff's primary argument for remand is that his Jones Act claims are made non-removable pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1445(a). (R. Doc. 7-1 at 2). Plaintiff then explains that because his general maritime claims arise out of the same operative facts as his Jones Act claims, the entire action becomes non-removable. (R. Doc. 7-1 at 3-4). Plaintiff further argues that nothing in the 2011 amendments to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 permits the Court to exercise removal jurisdiction over his general maritime claims, while severing and remanding his Jones Act claims. (R. Doc. 7-1 at 4-5).

Plaintiff also argues that his general maritime claims are not removable to federal court. (R. Doc. 7-1 at 5-9). Plaintiff argues that the "saving to suitors" clause in the admiralty jurisdiction statute is the historical basis for non-removability of general maritime claims. (R. Doc. 7-1 at 5-6). Accordingly, despite decisions in this district holding otherwise, the 2011 amendments to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 did not make general maritime claims removable. (R. Doc. 7-1 at 5-9).

In opposition, Defendants argue that in light of the 2011 amendments to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, this Court has held that general maritime claims are removable and the assertion of a Jones Act claim does not prevent the removal of actions in which general maritime claims are alleged. (R. Doc. 8 at 3-6). Defendants do not argue, however, that Plaintiff has fraudulently pled claims under the Jones Act or has otherwise waived any challenge to the removal of the Jones Act claims.

III. LAW AND ANALYSIS

It is well settled that when faced with a motion to remand the removing party bears the burden of establishing the facts necessary to show that federal jurisdiction exists. Allen v. R & H Oil & Gas Co., 63 F.3d 1326, 1335 (5th Cir. 1995). The federal removal statute "is subject to strict construction because a defendant's use of that statute deprives a state court of a case properly before it and thereby implicates important federalism concerns." Frank v. Bear Stearns & Co. , 128 F.3d 919, 922 (5th Cir. 1997). Any doubts regarding whether removal jurisdiction is proper should be resolved against federal jurisdiction. Acuna v. Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000).

The Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104, provides a cause of action in negligence for a seaman who is injured in the course of his employment.[2] See Pate v. Standard Dredging Corp., 193 F.2d 498, 501 (5th Cir. 1952) (The Jones Act "modified the prior maritime law of the United States by giving to seamen injured through negligence a right of action in personam against the employer."). The Act incorporates the federal laws regulating recovery for personal injury to railway employees - the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51-60. See 46 U.S.C. § 30104. Therefore, Jones Act claims are non-removable pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1445(a).[3] See Lewis v. Lewis & Clark Marine, Inc., 531 U.S. 438, 455 (2001) (28 U.S.C. § 1445(a) prevents removal of claims under the Jones Act even in the presence of diversity jurisdiction); Lackey v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 990 F.2d 202, 207 (5th Cir. 1993) ("It is axiomatic that Jones Act suits may not be removed from state court" because the Jones Act "incorporates the general provisions of [FELA], including 28 U.S.C. § 1445(a).").

Because Plaintiff alleges causes of action under both the Jones Act and general maritime law, the Court must determine whether his general maritime claim under § 1333(1) is removable under the current version of § 1441(c) when joined with his properly pled Jones Act claim. Section 1441(c) provides that actions involving both federal question claims and claims made non-removable by ...


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