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Aarons v. Phillips 66 Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 11, 2015

PHILLIPS 66 COMPANY et al., Section:



Before the Court are Plaintiffs Joseph Aarons, Hilton Boothe, Enoch Boothe and Jesse Sheppard's (collectively, "Plaintiffs") Motion to Remand[1] and Defendant Freeport-McMoRan Energy LLC's ("FME") Motion to Remand.[2] After reviewing the motions, oppositions, replies, the record, and the applicable law, the Court will grant the pending motions and remand this case to the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans.

I. Background

On February 2, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a Petition for Damages in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans.[3] In the Petition for Damages, Plaintiffs, who were employed as offshore workers in the oil and gas industry, claim that they were exposed to asbestos containing products and materials.[4] Plaintiffs asserted claims under both the Jones Act and general maritime law.[5] On January 9, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a first supplemental and amending petition alleging more specific facts regarding Plaintiffs' employment.[6] On January 31, 2014, Plaintiffs filed another supplemental and amending petition for damages, adding ten new defendants, including North River Insurance Company ("North River") and Costal of Abbeville, L.L.C ("Costal").[7] On March 17, 2014, North River and Costal timely filed a Notice of Removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c).[8]

II. Parties' Arguments

A. Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand

Plaintiffs argue that Jones Act claims filed in state court are not removable, absent an independent basis for federal jurisdiction.[9] They assert that there is no independent basis for federal jurisdiction in this case.[10] Additionally, Plaintiffs argue that the admiralty jurisdiction upon which Defendants seek to remove this case does not "arise under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States' and thus severing the Jones Act claims is impermissible" under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c).[11] Plaintiffs note that they elected to bring their action in state court and have requested a trial by jury.[12] Accordingly, they argue that "removal here would be inappropriate as it would strip Plaintiffs of the right to elect the venue and more importantly the right to trial by jury since trial by jury is not an available remedy where admiralty is the sole basis for jurisdiction."[13]

B. FME's Motion to Remand

FME argues that Plaintiffs asserted Jones Act claims against it in state court, which are nonremovable by federal statute.[14] FME contends that 18 U.S.C. § 1441(c) is limited to cases where removal is based on federal question jurisdiction.[15] FME asserts that admiralty jurisdiction provides the only basis for removal, making § 1441(c) inapplicable here.[16]

Alternatively, FME asserts that this case must be remanded because all parties with removable claims asserted against them are required to consent to removal.[17] FME argues that "Plaintiffs' maintenance and cure, unseaworthiness and state law claims are independently removable under this Court's admiralty subject matter jurisdiction. Thus, the removing defendants, Coastal of Abbeville, L.L.C. and North River Insurance Company, were required to obtain FME's consent to removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(2)(A)."[18]

C. Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP's Arguments in Opposition

Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP ("CPChem") argues that remand is inappropriate because: (1) the 2011 amendments to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 eliminate the historical bar to removal; and (2) Plaintiffs have not pled sufficient facts within their Petition for Damages to show that they have viable claims under the Jones Act.[19] CPChem argues that the amendment to §1441(b) eliminated the historical bar to removal of maritime claims, and by invoking general maritime law, Plaintiffs rendered their case subject to removal.[20] CPChem asserts that Plaintiffs have not alleged sufficient facts to establish claims under the Jones Act because they failed to provide any information as to which vessels or fleet of vessels they were assigned or as to the nature or duration of Plaintiffs' duties aboard any vessels.[21] Alternatively, CPChem argues that "under the sever-and-remand' approach described at § 1441(c) upon Plaintiffs' confirmation, the district court should: (1) sever Plaintiffs' claims against the Jones Act defendants, and (2) remand only those claims."[22]

Finally, CPChem asserts that FME was not required to consent to the removal because the Jones Act claims were fraudulently pled.[23] Alternatively, CPChem argues that FME's content was not required pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1441(c)(2), which states that "[o]nly defendants against whom a claim is described in paragraph (1)(A) has ...

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