Motion to Remand Denied Despite Disclaimer Regarding Federal Officer Jurisdiction

LOUISIANA – The plaintiff, Terry Bondurant, alleged that his mesothelioma was caused in part by his service as a welder for the United States Navy aboard the USS Ticonderoga, and by his work as an electrician in civilian refineries and chemical plants. The plaintiff brought strict liability failure to warn and design defect claims against defendants GE and Westinghouse and others in Louisiana State Court, but specifically disclaimed “any cause of action for injury caused by exposure on a federal enclave and by any act or omission of, or committed at the direction of, a federal officer.” At deposition, the plaintiff testified that he was exposed to asbestos-containing insulation on turbines on the Ticonderoga that were provided by the defendants.

Following the deposition, GE and Westinghouse removed the case, and invoked the government contractor defense. The plaintiff moved to remand, and argued that the federal officer defense was immaterial given the disclaimer in the pleadings. The plaintiff further argued that the defendants had not shown that either the Navy had prohibited warnings about asbestos, or that they attempted to provide warnings to the Navy for inclusion in manuals, making the decision not to warn the Navy’s, rather than the defendants’.

The court denied the plaintiff’s motion and found that the defendants had demonstrated a colorable federal defense, that they acted under the direction of a federal officer, and that there was a causal nexus between Bondurant’s claims and their acts performed under the color of federal officer. They further noted that although the plaintiff had included a “boilerplate” disclaimer, they had still included strict liability claims against the defendants.

Read the case decision here.