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Boudreaux v. Global Offshore Resources, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

January 30, 2015

MARK BOUDREAUX, ET AL.,
v.
GLOBAL OFFSHORE RESOURCES, LLC

MEMORANDUM RULING ON MOTION TO REMAND

C. MICHAEL HILL, Magistrate Judge.

Pending before the undersigned is the Motion to Remand filed by plaintiffs, Mark Boudreaux ("Boudreaux") and John Guidry ("Guidry"), on September 5, 2014. [rec. doc. 5]. Defendant, Global Offshore Resources, LLC ("Global"), filed opposition on September 26, 2014. [rec. doc. 11]. Following oral argument I took the motion under advisement. [rec. doc. 14].

For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

Background

Plaintiffs, Boudreaux and Guidry, were employed by Global. On November 4, 2013, Boudreaux was assigned to the Hornbeck Offshore Services ("Hornbeck") vessels Voyager and Sweetwater, while Guidry was assigned to the Hornbeck vessel Stormridge. On that date, plaintiffs were en route to a safety meeting hosted by Global, when a third-party automobile caused an accident resulting in plaintiffs' alleged injuries.

On July 15, 2014, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Global in the 15th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lafayette, State of Louisiana, asserting claims under the general maritime law and the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 30104-30105 (formerly 46 U.S.C. App. § 688), as well as for maintenance and cure.[1] Plaintiffs invoked the "savings to suitors" clause under 28 U.S.C. § 1333 and requested a jury trial. (Petition, ¶¶ VII, XI).

On August 18, 2014, Global removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331[2] and 1441(a). Global asserted that this case was removable on the basis of federal question jurisdiction because plaintiffs had asserted general maritime claims, specifically for maintenance and cure benefits.

On September 5, 2014, plaintiffs filed the instant Motion to Remand on the grounds that actions brought in state court under the general maritime law are not removable. [rec. doc. 5]. Global argues that this case is removable under the holding in Ryan v. Hercules Offshore, 945 F.Supp.2d 772 (S.D. Tex. 2013), and its progeny.

Analysis

This motion presents the Court with a hotly contested issue - whether general maritime claims are removable after the 2011 amendment to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Butler v. RLB Contracting, Inc., 2014 WL 1653078, *1 (S.D. Tex. Apr. 24, 2014). To date, the Fifth Circuit has not directly addressed this question, and the trial courts are sharply divided.

Global removed this case on the grounds of federal question jurisdiction under §§ 1331 and 1441(a). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), any state court civil action over which the federal courts would have original jurisdiction may be removed. Jurisdiction over a claim for maintenance and cure is based upon the general maritime law, over which the federal courts have jurisdiction. Billiot v. Cenac Towing Co., 2009 WL 1458265, *1 (E.D. La. May 22, 2009) ( citing Fitzgerald v. U.S. Lines Co., 374 U.S. 16, 17 (1963)).

When considering a motion to remand, the removing party bears the burden of showing that federal jurisdiction exists and that removal was proper. Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002); Scarlott v. Nissan North America, Inc., ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 4920255 (5th Cir. Sept. 30, 2014) ( citing Mumfrey v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., 719 F.3d 392, 397 (5th Cir. 2013)). Because removal raises significant federalism concerns, the removal statutes are strictly and narrowly construed, with any doubt resolved against removal and in favor of remand. Gutierrez v. Flores, 543 F.3d 248, 251 (5th Cir. 2008). In short, any doubts regarding whether removal jurisdiction is proper should be resolved against federal jurisdiction. Vantage Drilling Co. v. Hsin-Chi Su, 741 F.3d 535, 537 (5th Cir. 2014) ( quoting Acuna v. Brown & Root Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 530 U.S. 1229, 120 S.Ct. 2658, 147 L.Ed.2d 273 (2000)).

In this case, plaintiffs filed suit in state court invoking the "saving to suitors clause" as well as asserting a claim for maintenance and cure. Defendants removed this case on the grounds that after the 2011 amendment to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, general maritime claims are removable.

Prior to the amendment in December, 2011, 28 U.S.C. § 1441 provided:

(a) Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending. For purposes of removal ...

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