Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand to State Court Denied After Court Finds Federal Jurisdiction under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, January 24, 2018

LOUISIANA — On June 16, 2017, plaintiff Federico Lopez filed suit against 15 defendants, claiming that his exposure to asbestos as a welder and pipefitter at numerous locations caused his mesothelioma.  Defendants Shell Oil Company and Tennessee Gas Pipeline, LLC, removed the action, invoking federal subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. Section 1349(b), and alternatively, pursuant to federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. Section 1331.  Further, the defendants contended that the court had supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claims against all other defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1367(a) as those claims are so related to the claims falling under this Court’s original jurisdiction such that they form part of the same case or controversy.  Finally, the defendants asserted that removal was timely because the Notice of Removal was filed within 30 days of the plaintiff’s August 16, 2017 deposition, during which the defendants first ascertained that the plaintiff’s claims against them arose out of, or were in connection to, the defendants’ operations on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), which involved the exploration, development, and/or production of minerals.

Thereafter,  the plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand, seeking remand on the basis that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.  The plaintiff alleged that defendants failed to carry their burden of showing that OCSLA, or any other basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction, applied in this case.  The plaintiff argued that his injuries did not arise out of or in connection with the exploration, development, or production of minerals: “[R]ather, Plaintiff alleges that he was exposed to asbestos in the course of building or repairing platforms, not operating them, and Plaintiff was not exploring, developing, or producing minerals when he was exposed.”  Lastly, the plaintiff asserted that OCSLA does not provide a basis for removal because he alleged solely state law causes of action and did not assert a cause of action under OCSLA.

The District Court rejected the plaintiff’s “limited and quite literal reading of OCSLA, which is in direct contravention of the Fifth Circuit’s consistently broad interpretation.”  The court applied a two-prong jurisdiction test and held that OCSLA confers original jurisdiction.  The plaintiff’s “injury-causing activities—exposure to asbestos while constructing, servicing, and maintaining offshore drilling and production platforms—are sufficient physical acts constituting the requisite operation under OCSLA, and that Plaintiff’s work furthered mineral development.”  The court further determined that “at least part of the work that Plaintiff alleges caused his exposure to asbestos arose out of or in connection with the OCS operations.”

Ultimately, the court denied the plaintiff’s Motion to Remand.

Read the full decision here.

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