Port Commission’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Granted Where Plaintiff’s Work was Predominantly Land Based

Mr. Genusa developed mesothelioma as a result of his work as a longshoreman, truck loader, and warehouse worker from 1963-1999. Mr. Genusa passed away and a claim was paid by Baton Rouge Marine Contractors (BRMC) and Signal Mutual Indemnity under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act.

The plaintiffs instituted this action against 13 defendants that allegedly “designed, tested, evaluated, manufactured, packaged, furnished, stored, handled, transported, installed, supplied and/or sold asbestos containing products to recover the benefits paid to Mr. Genusa’s wife. The last standing defendant, Greater Baton Rouge Port Association (GBRP) moved to dismiss the claim for failure to state a claim and for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The court began its analysis with an overview of Rule 12(b)(1), which provides for dismissal when the court lacks “statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the claim.” The court noted that federal courts have jurisdiction over any “civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction.” The test is one of locality and whether the tort occurred on “navigable water or whether injury suffered on land was caused by a vessel on navigable water according to the court. The two components for analysis include 1) an assessment of whether the incident potentially disrupts maritime commerce and 2) whether the activity is generally one that has a significant relationship to traditional maritime activity.

Here, the court honed in on the fact that the plaintiff’s complaint was filed in federal court to invoke admiralty jurisdiction. Relying on its decision in Genusa v. Asbestos Corp. the court found:“Genusa was a primarily land-based worker and that the prospect of injuries to a predominantly land-based worked is less likely to disrupt maritime commerce because such workers are not necessary to operate on the navigable waters.” The plaintiffs argued that the Genusa decision was based in error from the court’s reliance on the Conner decision and that the court should apply the Cabasug test. In that case, the plaintiff had spent 75 percent of his time on land based work but the court found that his exposure came from products “that were manufactured for use on vessels, thereby bearing a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity.” The court disagreed and noted that once the ships were loaded or unloaded, Genusa’s duties were “entirely confined to land-based operations until another vessel docked.”

Accordingly, the court found that it did not have original admiralty jurisdiction and granted the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Read the full decision here.