Cases Remanded After Court Determines Defendant Shipbuilder Controlled Safety Procedures

LOUISIANA — The Eastern District of Louisiana granted motions to remand in two separate mesothelioma cases arising out of alleged exposure to asbestos through work for defendant Avondale Industries, Inc., a shipbuilder for the United States Navy. Each plaintiff originally filed their actions in state court, alleging that Avondale failed to warn of the hazards of asbestos and failed to implement proper safety procedures for the handling of asbestos. Avondale removed the matter to federal court on federal officer jurisdiction.

In remanding, the court focused on evidence that the federal government had no control over Avondale’s application of safety measures, despite the fact that the government did specify Avondale’s use of asbestos in building the ships. The court cited testimony from two Avondale supervisors and a federal ship inspector, who all echoed the notion that the United States government played no role in enforcing safety regulations during ship construction, or in ensuring Avondale’s compliance with state law obligation to warn of hazards. Stated another way, the plaintiffs’ failure to warn and failure to safeguard claims have nothing to do with federal requirements, because safety measures were always controlled by Avondale. In interpreting the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442, and subsequent case law, the court emphasized that removing parties must establish the “requisite causal connection between {their} actions under color of federal office and the plaintiff’s claims.” Finding a lack of a causal nexus in these two cases, both were remanded.

Read the full decision here.