JAMES A. LATIOLAIS, Plaintiff - Appellee
HUNTINGTON INGALLS, INCORPORATED, formerly known as Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Incorporated, formerly known as Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Incorporated, formerly known as Avondale Industries, Incorporated, Defendant-Appellant
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana
JONES, HAYNES, and OLDHAM, Circuit Judges.
H. JONES, Circuit Judge.
several actions before it, this case involves a Plaintiff who
was exposed to asbestos at the Avondale shipyard and
eventually contracted mesothelioma. The Defendant removed the
case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1442(a)(1), the "federal officer removal statute,"
but the district court remanded to state court. Constrained
by a welter of conflicting precedent, we must affirm.
the 1960s and 1970s, the United States Navy contracted with
the Defendant Avondale to build and refurbish naval vessels. Most
of the contracts in the 1960s required asbestos for thermal
insulation. According to Avondale's expert, a marine
engineer and naval historian, the contracts obligated
Avondale "to comply with government plans and
specifications, and the federal government had the right to
and did exercise supervision over the process to ensure such
compliance." Importantly, however, a Navy ship inspector
who worked at Avondale during the 1960s testified that he and
his colleagues "neither monitored nor enforced safety
regulations" and "on the job safety during the
construction of vessels for the United States government was
the responsibility of Avondale Shipyards' safety
Plaintiff, James Latiolais, formerly a machinist aboard the
USS TAPPAHANNOCK, was exposed to asbestos while his
ship underwent refurbishing at Avondale for several months.
During the refurbishing process, Latiolais spent most of each
day on the ship. In 2017, Latiolais was diagnosed with
mesothelioma. He died in October, 2017.
sued Avondale in Louisiana state court for causing him to
contract mesothelioma. He asserts, inter alia, that
Avondale negligently failed to warn him about asbestos
hazards and failed to provide adequate safety equipment. He
did not allege strict liability claims against Avondale.
removed the case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. §
1442(a)(1). Latiolais sought remand, however, and the
district court granted the motion. It ruled in relevant part
that because Avondale had not met the "causal
nexus" requirement for officer removal, i.e.
had not shown that the United States or any of its officials
exercised any control over Avondale's safety practices,
removal under this statute was improper. Avondale timely
an order remanding a case to state court is not generally
reviewable, "an order remanding a case to the State
court from which it was removed pursuant to section 1442 or
1443 of this title shall be reviewable by appeal or
otherwise." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d). "We review
the district court's remand order de novo without a thumb
on the remand side of the scale." Legendre v.
Huntington Ingalls, Inc., 885 F.3d 398, 400 (5th Cir.
2018) (quotation marks omitted).
appeal, Avondale makes three arguments as to why officer
removal is proper. First, as amended in 2011, the removal
statute now requires only that a federal directive
"relates to"-but not necessarily has a causal
relationship to-the Plaintiffs' injuries. Second,
Avondale asserts that it has satisfied the causal nexus
requirement by showing "that its relationship with Mr.
Latiolais derived solely from its work for the federal
government." Third, Avondale seeks to avoid precedents
of this court contrary to the foregoing propositions.
Unfortunately, the failure of the third argument dooms the
The "relating to" language
federal officer removal statute was amended in 2011 to
broaden the basis for removal to federal court of claims
brought against officers or agents of the federal government
and those working under its direction. Thus, the statute
states that an action filed in state court may be removed to
federal court by: "[t]he United States or any agency
thereof or any officer (or any person acting under that
officer) of the United States or of any agency thereof, in an
official or individual capacity, for or relating to
any act under color of such office." 28 U.S.C. §
1442(a)(1) (emphasis added).
Supreme Court has observed more than once that when the term
"relating to" appears in a statute, it implies
broad and comprehensive coverage. See, e.g., Morales v.
Grans World Airlines, Inc.,504 U.S. 374, 383, 112 S.Ct.
2031, 2037 (1992) ("The ordinary meaning of these words
is a broad one-'to stand in some relation; to have
bearing or concern; to pertain; refer; to bring into
association with or connection with.'") (quoting
BLACK's LAW DICT. 1158 (5th ed. 1979));
see also Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.,463 U.S. 85,
96-98, 103 S.Ct. 2890, 2899-2900 (1983). From the text alone,
enhanced by the Supreme Court's understanding of its
language, Avondale's argument has considerable appeal.
Avondale's work, ...