United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
W. BROOKS WATSON, et al.
ARKOMA DEVELOPMENT, LLC, et al.
G. JAMES JUDGE.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. HAYES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the undersigned Magistrate Judge, on reference from the
District Court, is a Plaintiffs' motion to remand [doc. #
12]. The motion is opposed. For reasons explained below, it
is recommended that the motion to remand be DENIED.
27, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant oilfield contamination
suit in the 6th Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Tensas, State of Louisiana against eight defendants
arising out of decades-long oil and gas exploration and
production activities conducted on Plaintiffs' properties
by the defendants and/or their predecessors in title.
See Notice of Removal, doc. # 1, p. 1. The eight
entities named as defendants are: Arkoma Development LLC,
Arkoma Louisiana LLC, Atlantic Richfield Company, BP America
Production Company, ConocoPhillips Company
(“ConocoPhillips”), Kabco Oil & Gas Company,
Kabco Production Company, and Southern Natural Gas Company,
October 17, 2017, defendants SNG and ConocoPhillips removed
this suit to this Court on the sole basis of diversity
jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Notice of Removal, doc.
#1. Plaintiffs timely filed the instant motion to remand
asserting that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
because the State of Louisiana is a party. See
Motion to Remand, doc. #12.
31, 2017, defendants, SNG and ConocoPhillips, filed their
Memorandum in Opposition to Motion to Remand [doc. # 16]. SNG
and ConocoPhillips argued that Plaintiffs lack authority to
bring suit in the name of the State of Louisiana and,
alternatively, the State of Louisiana is, at most, a nominal
party. Plaintiffs filed a reply in support of remand on
December 14, 2017 [doc. # 21]. Removing defendants filed a
sur-reply on January 5, 2018. [doc. # 24]. Thus, the matter
defendant may remove an action from state court to federal
court, provided the action is one in which the federal court
may exercise original jurisdiction. Manguno v. Prudential
Property and Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723
(5th Cir. 2002) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)).
The removing defendant bears the burden of establishing
federal subject matter jurisdiction and ensuring compliance
with the procedural requirements of removal. Id.
Because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, a
suit is presumed to lie outside this limited jurisdiction
unless and until the party invoking federal jurisdiction
establishes to the contrary. Howery v. Allstate Ins.
Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001) (citation
omitted). The removal statutes are strictly construed in
favor of remand. Manguno, supra.
SNG and ConocoPhillips invoked this court's diversity
jurisdiction, which requires an amount in controversy greater
than $75, 000, and complete diversity of citizenship between
plaintiffs and defendants, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
Plaintiffs do not contest that the amount in controversy
exceeded $75, 000 at the time of removal. See
generally Memorandum in Support of Motion to Remand,
doc. # 12-1. The undersigned concludes that it is facially
apparent that the claimed damages exceed $75, 000.
See Notice of Removal, doc. #1. Plaintiffs also do
not contest that all plaintiffs, excluding the State of
Louisiana, are citizens of Louisiana only, and all defendants
are not citizens of Louisiana. The undersigned concludes that
it is facially apparent that, excluding the State of
Louisiana, complete diversity exists. See Id. Thus,
the jurisdictional issues are whether the State of Louisiana
was properly made a party to this actions and whether it is a
real party in interest.
Whether the State of Louisiana Was Properly Made a
diversity jurisdiction statute presupposes a civil action
between "citizens of different states, " where all
plaintiffs are diverse from all defendants. 28 U.S.C. §
1332; Farrell Const. Co. v. Jefferson Parish, La.,
896 F.2d 136, 139-140 (5th Cir. 1990). "Ordinarily
‘[i]n an action where a state is a party, there can be
no federal jurisdiction on the basis of diversity of
citizenship because a state is not a citizen for purposes of
diversity jurisdiction.'" Louisiana v. Union Oil
Co. of Cal., 458 F.3d 364, 366 (5th Cir. 2006) (quoting
Tex. Dep't of Hous. & Cmty. Affairs v. Verex
Assurance, Inc., 68 F.3d 922, 926 (5th Cir. 1995)).
Accordingly, excluding the exception discussed below, if the
State of Louisiana is a party to this litigation, this Court
would not have subject matter jurisdiction.
named the State of Louisiana ex rel. W. Brooks
Watson, Ben W. Watson, Scott H. Watson and Touchdown
Holdings, LLC as a plaintiff in this action. Plaintiffs argue
that they had authority to bring suit on behalf of the State
of Louisiana pursuant to La. R.S. § 30:16. Defendants
argue that Plaintiffs La. R.S. § 30:16 grants no such
may only sue in the name of the State of Louisiana if that
party has statutory authority to do so. See In re
Louisiana Riverboat Gaming Comm'n, 659 So.2d 775,
779 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1995); Par. of Plaquemines v. Total
Petrochemical & Ref. USA, Inc., 64 F.Supp.3d 872,
889 (E.D. La. 2014) (“Louisiana law does not brook
self-appointed interlopers who institute legal action on
behalf of the State without the legal authority to do
so.”). La. R. S. § 30:14 grants the Commissioner
of Conservation (the “Commissioner”) the duty to
sue to restrain a violation or threatened violation of
Louisiana's oil and gas regulations or orders made
thereunder. La. R. S. § 30:16 allows persons in interest
to notify the Commissioner of a violation or threatened
violation of Louisiana's oil and gas regulations and
request that the Commissioner sue to enjoin the violation. If
the Commissioner does not bring suit within 10 days of
receiving the notice, “any person in interest adversely
affected by the violation . . . may bring suit to prevent any
or further violations . . . .” La. R. S. § 30:16.
However, if the ...