Lack of Causal Nexus Leads to Grant of Remand Against Shipyard Defendant U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, May 4, 2018

LOUISIANA — The plaintiff filed suit against several Defendants including Avondale Shipyards. James Latiolais allegedly developed mesothelioma from his work as a machinist onboard the USS Tappahannock. Avondale removed the case after the plaintiff’s deposition concluded. The removal was made pursuant to Federal Officer Removal Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442 (a)(1). The plaintiff moved to remand.

The court began its analysis by discussing the elements associated with Federal Officer Removal. First, the defendant must meet the criteria of being a “person” which includes corporations like Avondale, according to the court. Second, the causal nexus requires a showing that the defendant’s conduct was directed by the federal government and whether that conduct “caused the plaintiff’s injuries.” Avondale easily met the first element of being a person as defined by the statute. As for the second element, Avondale argued that under Zeringue, the statute’s language had been enlarged by adding “relating to”. However, the court quickly pointed out that the Zeringue decision also noted that it does not supersede the court’s decision in Bartel. That decision concerned federal officer removal in the plaintiff’s failure to warn case and did not apply to strict liability. Here, the plaintiff asserted claims against Avondale sounded in negligence rather than strict liability. According to the court, nothing illustrated that the government directed Avondale how to warn or issue safety procedures at the shipyard. Therefore, Avondale could not establish the causal nexus with respect to the removal statute. Consequently, remand was granted.

Read the full decision here.

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