Crane Asserted a Colorable Federal Defense to Establish Jurisdiction Under Federal Officer Removal Statute U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, January 9, 2017

The plaintiff sued various defendants for negligence, strict liability, and fraudulent inducement. Crane removed to federal court under the federal officer removal statute, and plaintiff moved to remand. The court denied this motion.

To remove under Section 1442(a)(1) the defendant must qualify as a “person” under the federal officer removal statute, must act under the direction of a federal officer at the time the defendant engaged in the allegedly tortious act, and must advance a “colorable federal defense.” Also, a causal connection must appear between what the officer has done under asserted official authority and the state prosecution.

In support of remand, the plaintiff argued Crane failed to demonstrate a colorable federal defense. Crane asserted the federal contractor defense, which was available if: (1) the United States approved reasonably precise specifications; (2) the equipment conformed to those specifications; and (3) the supplier warned the United States about the dangers in using the equipment that were known to the supplier but not to the United States. The court found that Crane asserted a colorable federal defense. The Crane representative stated that all equipment made by Crane for the Navy was governed by an extensive set of federal standards. Crane’s experts also stated that the Navy exercised detailed supervision over the design, manufacture, labeling, and warnings attached to Crane products.

Further, the government contractor defense applied where a significant conflict existed between federal policy and state law. Crane argued it could not comply with both because the Navy directed all warning requirements. The plaintiff argued Crane did not provide a good faith foundation to argue it was unable to comply with Naval requirements and the duty of care imposed by state law. The court did not decide this issue and stated that at this point, the inquiry was purely jurisdictional, and the court need not decide whether the defense would actually succeed.

Read the full decision here.

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