Motion to Remand or Sever Claims Ruled Premature

LOUISIANA – In March 2017, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit alleging that decedent, Wayne Knight, who developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos while employed by Avondale Shipyard from 1967 to 1982. Avondale removed the case in October 2018, pursuant to the federal officer removal statute. The plaintiffs then filed a motion to sever claims and remand.

Pursuant to the federal officer removal statute, removal is proper if a defendant can establish four elements:

  1. That it is a person within the meaning of the statute
  2. That it has a colorable federal defense
  3. That it acted pursuant to a federal officer’s directions
  4. That a causal nexus exists between its actions under color of federal office and the plaintiff’s claims.

Avondale argued that the removal was proper as all four elements had been met, and furthermore, that the court had no legal basis to sever the claims. The plaintiffs argued that removal was improper because the statute was inapplicable to state law claims, and that their claims sounded solely in negligence, not strict liability. The court found that the plaintiffs’ pleadings did not indicate they were not pursuing strict liability claims. The court found it premature on the present record to find a basis for severance or remand, and dismissed the plaintiffs’ motion without prejudice.

Read the full case decision here.