Motion to Remand Denied as District Court Exercised Supplemental Jurisdiction Over Plaintiff’s State Law Claims

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, January 5, 2022

In this asbestos action, the plaintiff Lennard Stansbury claims that he developed mesothelioma following asbestos exposure while working at several jobsites in the New Orleans area from approximately 1966 until the late 1970s. Stansbury filed his complaint in November 2020 and was deposed in March 2021. The defendant Wausau filed a third-party demand which named Avondale Shipyards as a third-party defendant in August 2021. Thereafter, the third-party defendant Avondale filed a notice of removal. Stansbury subsequently filed a motion to remand.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c), “the district court can decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a state law claim” if the state law claim:

  • (1) raises a novel or complex issue of state law,
  • (2) substantially predominates over the claim over which the district court has jurisdiction,
  • (3) the district court dismissed all claims over which it had original jurisdiction, or
  • (4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction.

Stansbury argued that his state law claims substantially predominate as the basis for removal is a third-party claim. As such, Stansbury contended that this court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Stansbury’s state law claims and allow the third-party claim against Avondale to be stayed in federal court. However, the court found that “the state law and federal claims were sufficiently intertwined.” Stansbury testified that he was exposed to asbestos while working at the Avondale Shipyards. He also alleged asbestos exposure while working at Dixie Machine, which is insured by Wausau. The court set forth that “plaintiff’s allegations . . . and Wausau’s claim that Avondale is partially responsible for [Stansbury’s] exposure involve a single wrong – that plaintiff was exposed to asbestos during the course of his employment.” Therefore, Stansbury’s state law claims do not predominate as the claims arise from the same factual circumstances. The court also noted that the fact that Avondale is a third-party defendant instead of a direct defendant is “not dispositive in deciding whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff’s state law claims” as Stansbury alleged exposure at the Avondale Shipyards and Wausau demanded contribution from Avondale.

Stansbury also argued that the court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction as exceptional circumstances are present. Namely, Stansbury notes the “dire medical prognosis and fast approaching state court trial date.” The court set forth that when a party argues that exceptional circumstances are present, courts also consider the common law factors of “judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity.” The court found that Stansbury’s “health status is not necessarily an exceptional circumstance requiring remand.” With regard to judicial economy, the court distinguished this matter from others which had been pending for close to or more than two years and significant document production had taken place. Further, the fairness and comity factors do not require remand as the claim for contribution is “directly related” to plaintiff’s claims. Finally, the court deemed the factor of convenience to be neutral as the parties and attorneys appeared to reside in the court’s vicinity.   

Thus, the court denied Stansbury’s motion to remand.

Read the full decision here.