Amended Complaint Deleting Federal Claims Does Not Destroy Jurisdiction Over a Validly Removed Case

LOUISIANA — This decision arises out of the court’s review of the plaintiffs’ motion to remand, and appellant’s motion for review of an order granting plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint. The shipyard worker plaintiff originally filed an action in state court naming numerous defendants. The initial petition included failure to warn and negligence claims against the appellant, among other causes of action, and strict products liability and failure to warn claims against a boiler defendant, who also opposed the motion to remand. Approximately three months after the first pleading, the plaintiffs filed an amended petition adding a defendant, and asserting strict liability claims as to the appellant and the new defendant.

Following a witness deposition that connected the plaintiff’s injuries to work on U.S. Navy ships, the appellant filed its notice of removal alleging federal officer jurisdiction. The plaintiffs subsequently requested leave to file an amended complaint to delete their strict liability claims against the appellant, alleging that these claims were brought in a good faith error. Leave to amend was granted, and the instant defendant appealed.  The plaintiffs opposed the appeal, and moved to remand.

Appellants argued that the amended pleading deleting strict liability claims was in bad faith because it was intended to defeat federal jurisdiction, while also arguing that the amendment was futile because it cannot destroy federal jurisdiction. The court concluded that there was no error in granting the leave to amend. Courts are permitted to freely give leave to amend when justice requires. The court further noted that the “amended complaint does not automatically destroy federal jurisdiction,” which “weighs in favor, rather than against, permitting amendment.”

Next considering the plaintiffs’ motion to remand, the court began its analysis by noting that its jurisdiction was based on the notice of removal, not the amended complaint. While an amended complaint deleting federal claims “may permit a discretionary remand, it does not destroy federal jurisdiction over a validly removed case.” The court noted that appellants had a strong body of law supporting their right to remove the matter based on the plaintiffs’ strict liability claims. Appellants properly supported their notice of removal and presented a colorable defense of federal contractor immunity. A “good faith error may justify granting leave to amend. But plaintiffs’ error does not create a jurisdictional defect in the notice of removal.” In response to the plaintiffs’ argument that the amended complaint removed the federal question, necessitating remand, the court further bolstered its decision to deny the motion to remand given the boiler defendant’s opposition, and their assertion of a federal contractor defense in pleadings, which the court analyzed and found as sufficiently colorable to defeat remand.

Read the full decision here.