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Knight v. Huntington Ingalls Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 30, 2019

JENNIFER E. KNIGHT, ET. AL.
v.
HUNTINGTON INGALLS INCORPORATED, ET. AL.

         SECTION: “B” (4)

          ORDER AND REASONS

         Before the Court are plaintiffs Jennifer Knight and Wayne Knight's Motion to Sever Claims and Remand (Rec. Doc. 33) and defendants Huntington Ingalls Incorporated, Albert L. Bossier, Jr., and Lamorak Insurance Company's (“Avondale Interests” or “Defendants”) Memorandum in Opposition (Rec. Doc. 65). Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that the motion to sever and remand is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to allow further discovery and consideration of possible summary judgment motions.

         Also before the Court are petitioners-in-intervention Michael Knight and Debra Knight Houston's (“Intervenors”) Motion to Remand or, in the Alternative, for Abstention (Rec. Doc. 36) and defendants Huntington Ingalls Incorporated, Albert L. Bossier, Jr., and Lamorak Insurance Company's (“Avondale Interests” or “Defendants”) Memorandum in Opposition (Rec. Doc. 59). Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that the motion to remand or for abstention is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to allow further discovery and consideration of posssible summary judgment motions.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiffs are relatives of decedent, of Wayne A. Knight. See Rec. Doc. 33-1 at 2. Specifically, Jennifer Knight is the surviving spouse of Wayne A. Knight. See id. Wayne Knight is a surviving child of Wayne A. Knight. See id. Petitioners-in-Intervention, Michael Knight and Debra Knight Houston are also surviving children of Wayne A. Knight. See id. Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants and others on March 30, 2017 in state court. See Rec. Doc. 65 at 9; see also Rec. Doc. 33-1 at 2. Plaintiffs allege that Wayne A. Knight was diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos during his employment at Avondale Shipyard from 1967 to 1982. See Rec. Doc. 65 at 9. Petitioners-in-Intervention filed a petition on August 30, 2018. See Rec. Doc. 33-1 at 2. Defendants filed a notice of removal on October 10, 2018. See id.

         On November 9, 2018, plaintiffs filed a motion to sever claims and remand. See Rec. Doc. 33. On December 14, 2018, defendants filed a memorandum in opposition. See Rec. Doc. 65.

         On November 9, 2018, intervenors filed a motion to remand or, in the alternative, abstain. See Rec. Doc. 36. On December 7, 2018, defendants filed a memorandum in opposition. See Rec. Doc. 59.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Orlean Shoring, LLC v. Patterson, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36105 *1, *6 (E.D. La. 2011). A federal district court also has jurisdiction over a removed action if it is a civil action that is commenced in a State court and against the United States or any agency thereof in an official or individual capacity, for or relating to any act under color of such office. See 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1). The removing party has the burden to establish the existence of jurisdiction. See Winters v. Diamond Shamrock Chem. Co., 149 F.3d 387, 397 (5th Cir. 1998). “To determine whether jurisdiction is present for removal, [courts] consider the claims in the state court petition as they existed at the time of removal.” Manguno v. Prudential Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002). “Any ambiguities are construed against removal because the removal statute should be strictly construed in favor of remand.” Id.

         In any civil action of which a district court has original jurisdiction, it shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). “Such supplemental jurisdiction shall include claims that involve the joinder or intervention of additional parties.” Id.

         In addition to having discretion to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, a district court also has discretion to stay federal actions where there is a parallel suit pending in state court and exceptional circumstances exist. See Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United Sates, 96 S.Ct 1236 (1976). To establish whether exceptional circumstances exist, a court must analyze six factors:(1) assumption by either court of jurisdiction over a re; (2) relative inconvenience of the forums; (3) avoidance of piecemeal litigation; (4) the order in which jurisdiction was obtained by the concurrent forums; (5) to what extent federal law provides the rules of decision on the merits; and (6) the adequacy of the state proceedings in protecting the rights of the party invoking federal jurisdiction. See Stewart v. Heritage Ins. Co., 438 F.3d 488, 491 (5th Cir. 2006).

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1), the Federal Officer Removal Statute, removal is proper if a defendant can establish four elements. See Legendre v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc., 885 F.3d 398, 400 (5th Cir. 2018)(stating that federal officer removal is unlike other removal doctrines because it is not narrow or limited). Specifically, a removing defendant must show: (1) that it is a person within the meaning of the statute; (2) that it has a colorable federal defense; (3) that it acted pursuant to a federal officer's directions; and (4) that a causal nexus exists between its actions under color of federal office and the plaintiff's claims. See id. There is no dispute as to the first element as both parties agree Avondale is a person within the meaning of the statute. See Rec. Doc. 33-1 at 5; Rec. Doc. 65 at 20.

         Defendants argues this case was properly removed under the Federal Officer Removal Statute. See Rec. Doc. 65 at 18. Arguably, Avondale meets each of the four requisite elements. Specifcally, plaintiff concedes that the first element is met; Avondale believes it has colorable federal defenses under Boyle v. United Technologies Corp., 487 U.S. 500 (1988) and the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act; that it acted under the color of federal office when building federal vessels; and intervenors' strict liability claim satisfies the causal nexus requirement. See id. at 20-40.

         In regard to severance, defendants argue there is no legal basis to do so. See id. at 14. Defendants contend that the Court should exercise supplemental jurisdiction over all claims asserted by plaintiffs and Intervenors. See id. at 40. It ...


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