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Yavorsky v. Felice Navigation, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 7, 2014

SERGEY YAVORSKY and NINA YAVORSKY, parents of IGOR YAVORSKY, deceased
v.
FELICE NAVIGATION, INC. and PRIMEROSE SHIPPING CO., LTD., SECTION:

ORDER AND REASONS

MARY ANN VIAL LEMMON, District Judge.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. #5) is GRANTED, and this matter is REMANDED to the Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana.

BACKGROUND

This matter is before the court on a motion to remand filed by plaintiffs, Sergey and Nina Yavorsky, the parents of the deceased seaman, Igor Yavorsky. They argue that defendants, Felice Navigation, Inc. and Primerose Shipping Co., Ltd., improperly removed this action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and that it should be remanded to the Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana, where it was originally filed.

Plaintiffs, who are citizens of Ukraine, filed this actions seeking damages for their son's death. They allege that on January 17, 2014, Igor was fatally injured by his fellow seamen while working as the chief officer aboard the M/V OCEAN LION, a Liberian-flagged vessel owned by Felice and managed by Primerose. Felice is organized under the laws of, and maintains its principal place of business in, Liberia. Primerose is organized under the laws of the Marshall Islands and maintains offices in the Marshall Islands and Greece. At the time of Igor's death, the M/V OCEAN LION was on the Mississippi River.

Plaintiffs alleged that Igor was employed by Felice and Primerose pursuant to an employment contract and a collective bargaining agreement between the United Trade Union of Seafarers and Primerose. They allege that Igor's salary was $5, 600 per month, and that the collective bargaining agreement provided for a salary increase effective January 1, 2014. They also allege that the collective bargaining agreement provided contractual death benefits in the amount of $45, 000 that have not been paid.

Plaintiffs brought claims under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104, et seq., and the general maritime law. They also state that they have suffered "contractual damages" for the defendants' failure to pay the death benefits stated in the collective bargaining agreement. Defendants removed this action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana alleging subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1333. Specifically, defendants allege that this court has subject matter jurisdiction under § 1331, because this case involves a collective bargaining agreement, and such cases are removable under 29 U.S.C. § 185, et seq. They also allege that this court has original jurisdiction over general maritime law claims under § 1333, and that such claims are now removable due to the 2011 Amendments to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Further, defendants argue that plaintiffs' Jones Act claims are fraudulently pleaded to prevent removal.

ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Remand

Motions to remand to state court are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), which provides that "[i]f at any time before the final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded." The removing defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that federal jurisdiction exists and therefore that removal was proper. Jernigan v. Ashland Oil, Inc., 989 F.2d 812, 815 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 114 S.Ct. 192 (1993).

In assessing whether removal is appropriate, the court is guided by the principle, grounded in notions of comity and the recognition that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, that removal statutes should be strictly construed. See Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir.2002). Doubts regarding whether federal jurisdiction is proper should be resolved against federal jurisdiction. Acuna v. Brown & Root, 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000).

B. Removability under the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA")

Defendants argue that this case is removable under § 301 of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 185, because it involves a ...


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