United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. R. Doc. 6. The
motion is unopposed. The Court now rules as follows.
case arises from personal injuries allegedly suffered by
Plaintiff William New while employed as a foreman and crew
member aboard the M/V Miss Julia. R. Doc. 1-2 at 1. On or
about November 14, 2016, Plaintiff avers he slipped and fell
on the vessel's unreasonably slippery deck, sustaining
injuries as a result. R. Doc. 1-2 at 1.
filed suit in state court against his employer and the
vessel's owner, Defendant Texas Petroleum Investment
Company (“Texas Petroleum”), seeking recovery for
Texas Petroleum's negligence under the Jones Act and for
“violat[ions of] its non-delegable duty to plaintiff to
provide [Plaintiff] with a seaworthy vessel upon which to
work” under general maritime law. R. Doc. 1-2 at 1-2.
In the alternative, Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to rule
905(b) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation
Act (“LHWCA”). R. Doc. 1-2 at 2. Plaintiff seeks
recovery for past, present, and future medical expenses, lost
wages, impaired earning capacity, general damages, and loss
of enjoyment of life, as well as punitive damages. R. Doc.
1-2 at 2-3.
timely removed the case to federal court on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction. R. Doc. 1. Defendant notes that
complete diversity exists because Plaintiff is a citizen of
Louisiana and Defendant is a Texas corporation with its
principal place of business in Texas. R. Doc. 1 at 1.
Defendant further notes that the amount in controversy will
likely exceed $75, 000 based on the nature of the suit and
Plaintiff's allegations. R. Doc. 1 at 1.
before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to remand. R. Doc.
6. Plaintiff argues that the Jones Act precludes removal
jurisdiction even when a plaintiff joins his Jones Act claims
with claims arising under general maritime law. R. Doc. 6-1.
The motion is unopposed.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
general rule, Jones Act cases are not removable. Fields
v. Pool Offshore, Inc., 182 F.3d 353, 356 (5th Cir.
1999); see also 46 U.S.C. § 1445(a);
Burchett v. Cargill, Inc., 48 F.3d 173, 175 (5th
Cir. 1995); In re Dutile, 935 F.2d 61, 63 (5th Cir.
1991). This rule does not apply, however, where a Jones Act
claim is fraudulently pleaded. See Fields, 182 F.3d
at 356. Thus, a state court Jones Act case may be removed to
federal court if the assertion of Jones Act status is
“baseless in law and fact” and brought
“only to frustrate federal jurisdiction.”
Burchett, 48 F.3d at 175-76 (quoting Lackey v.
Atlantic Richfield Co., 990 F.2d 202, 207 (5th Cir.
1989)). Ordinarily, federal courts may only consider a
plaintiff's pleadings to determine whether a Jones Act
claim has been asserted, but a defendant may “pierce
the pleadings to show that the Jones Act claim has been
fraudulently pleaded to prevent removal.” Id.
(quoting Lackey, 990 F.2d at 207); Connelly v.
Trico Marine Operators, Inc., No. CIV.A. 10-1665, 2012
WL 1900044, at *2 (E.D. La. May 24, 2012). The removing
party, however, bears the “heavy” burden of
demonstrating that “there is no possibility that
plaintiff would be able to establish a cause of
action.” Burchett, 48 F.3d at 175-76 (quoting
Lackey, 990 F.2d at 207).
case, Defendant has not attempted to meet this
“heavy” burden. Plaintiffs complaint clearly
asserts Jones Act claims, as Plaintiff alleges that at the
time of the accident, he was a foreman and crew member
assigned to a vessel owned by his “Jones Act
employer.” R. Doc. 1-2 at 2. Meanwhile, Defendant's
notice of removal contains no allegations of fraud,
see R. Doc. 1, and Defendant has not filed an
opposition to Plaintiffs motion to remand. The Court
therefore declines to look past the pleadings in order to
conclude that Plaintiffs Jones Act claims are fraudulent.
Accordingly, the Court finds that removal was improper
because the Jones Act precludes removal even when complete
diversity exists between the parties.
found that Plaintiff asserts a claim arising under the Jones
Act and entertaining no argument to the contrary, IT
IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs motion to remand is
hereby GRANTED and the matter is remanded to