United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
PATRICK J. HANNA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is the Joint Motion to Strike Jury Demand filed by
United Marine Offshore, LLC and Warrior Energy Services Corp.
(Rec. Doc. 62). No. party has opposed. Considering the
evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for
the reasons fully explained below, the Joint Motion to Strike
Jury Demand is GRANTED.
Pilette, a tank cleaner employed by Francis Drilling Fluids,
filed suit in state court for injuries allegedly sustained
while he was aboard the lift boat Superior Result
when it was involved in a collision with the M/V Miss
Allie. (Rec. Doc. 1-2). The incident occurred on the
Outer Continental Shelf at Ship Shoal Block 58 in the Gulf of
Mexico. (Rec. Doc. 14, p. 2, adopted by Doc. 15). Warrior
owned and operated the L/B Superior Result, and
United Marine owned the M/V Miss Allie. This Court
previously held that federal jurisdiction existed by virtue
of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. (Rec. Doc. 14,
adopted by Doc. 15). Subsequently, United Marine and Warrior
filed Answers to Pilette’s Petition with demands for
jury trial. United Marine also filed a Complaint under the
Limitation of Liability Act, which was consolidated with the
instant matter. (Rec. Doc. 17). United Marine and Warrior now
move to strike their jury demands.
The Constitution provides that the judicial power of the
federal courts “shall extend ... to all Cases of
admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction.” U.S. Const. art.
III, § 2, cl. 1. Congress implemented this
constitutional grant through *188 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1),
which provides that the district courts have original
jurisdiction over “[a]ny civil case of admiralty or
maritime jurisdiction, saving to suitors in all cases all
other remedies to which they are otherwise entitled.”
This statutory grant gives federal courts jurisdiction over
all admiralty and maritime cases, regardless of the
citizenship of the parties or the amount in controversy.
Under the “saving to suitors” clause in §
1333, a plaintiff whose claim does not fall within the
exclusive admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts may
bring her claim “at law” in state court. The
saving to suitors clause also allows a plaintiff to bring her
claim “at law” under the federal court's
diversity jurisdiction, provided the requirements for
diversity and amount in controversy are met. Atl. &
Gulf Stevedores, Inc. v. Ellerman Lines, Ltd., 369 U.S.
355, 359–60, 82 S.Ct. 780, 7 L.Ed.2d 798 (1962);
see also 14A Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal
Practice and Procedure § 3672 (3d ed.1998) (noting that
a plaintiff with a claim cognizable in admiralty and at law
has three choices: she may bring her suit in federal court
under admiralty jurisdiction, in federal court under
diversity jurisdiction, or in state court).
When a plaintiff's claim is cognizable under admiralty
jurisdiction and some other basis of federal jurisdiction,
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow the plaintiff to
expressly designate her claim as being in admiralty.
Luera v. M/V Alberta, 635 F.3d 181, 187–88
(5th Cir. 2011) (Citations omitted.)
9(h) provides that “[i]f a claim for relief is within
the admiralty or maritime jurisdiction and also within the
court's subject-matter jurisdiction on some other ground,
the pleading may designate the claim as an admiralty or
maritime claim for purposes of Rule ... 38(e), ” which
allows for bench trials in maritime cases. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
38(e). In such a case, “the election made
available to the pleader pursuant to Rule 9(h) is
dispositive.” See Harrison v. Flota Mercante
Grancolombiana, S.A., 577 F.2d 968, 986 (5th Cir.1978).
There is no right to a jury trial where the complaint
contains a statement identifying the claim as an admiralty or
maritime claim, even though other grounds for federal
jurisdiction also exist. T.N.T. Marine Service, Inc. v.
Weaver Shipyards & Dry Docks, Inc., 702 F.2d 585,
587 (5th Cir.1983).
Rule 9(h) appears to require an affirmative statement from
the plaintiff to invoke the admiralty rules for claims
cognizable under admiralty and some other basis of
jurisdiction, the Fifth Circuit has held that the mere
assertion of admiralty jurisdiction as a dual or an alternate
basis of subject matter jurisdiction for a claim is
sufficient to make a Rule 9(h) election to proceed in
admiralty for that claim. In T.N.T. Marine Service, Inc.
v. Weaver Shipyards & Dry Docks, Inc., 702 F.2d 585,
587–588 (5th Cir.1983), the court held that by the
“simple statement asserting admiralty or maritime
claims” the plaintiff had elected to proceed under
admiralty jurisdiction and procedures even without an
explicit reference to Rule 9(h). See also Gilmore v.
Waterman Steamship Corp., 790 F.2d 1244, 1246 (5th
Cir.1986) (If a party asserts both admiralty and diversity
jurisdiction, the court will treat the claim as though a Rule
9(h) declaration has been made.); Durden v. Exxon
Corp, 803 F.2d 845, 849 n. 10 (5th Cir.1986)
(Plaintiff's allegation of admiralty as an alternative
basis of jurisdiction was sufficient to make a Rule 9(h)
election.). More recently, in Luera v. M/V Alberta,
the Fifth Circuit again explained that:
[I]n this circuit a plaintiff who asserts admiralty
jurisdiction as a basis for the court's subject matter
jurisdiction over a claim has automatically elected under
Rule 9(h) to proceed under the admiralty rules, even if she
states that her claim is also cognizable under ...