Palmer, Jr. v. Georgia Ports Authority

Filing 12

ORDER granting 4 Motion to Remand. This action is Remanded to the State Court of Chatham County, GA. Signed by Judge J. Randal Hall on 9/19/16. (cmr)

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IN THE UNITED FOR THE STATES DISTRICT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF COURT GEORGIA SAVANNAH DIVISION LAWRENCE PALMER, JR., * Plaintiff, * v. * GEORGIA PORTS AUTHORITY, CV 416-199 * Defendant. * ORDER Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to remand this case to the State Court of Chatham County, Georgia. (Doc. 4.) I, On April 28, 2016, BACKGROUND Plaintiff filed a complaint in the State Court of Chatham County, Georgia1 for injuries resulting from the alleged negligence of Defendant's employees and agents in the maintenance and operation of a dock crane located at the Port of Savannah, 1 Lawrence County, 2 As Georgia.2 Palmer, CAFN: Jr. (Doc. v. 1-1) . Georgia On July 14, Ports Authority, State 2016, Court Defendant of Chatham STCV160 0618. alleged by Plaintiff, while Plaintiff was performing his job duties aboard a ship docked in a container berth at the Port of Savannah, a crane owned and operated by Defendant "lost hoist," causing the crane and its load (a shipping container) to descend and make contact with another shipping container. at (Doc. 1-1, 3-4.) Upon the shipping containers' contact, a steel lashing rod under tension came loose and struck Plaintiff on his head. (Id.) At the time of the incident, Plaintiff was an UILA union deck and dock worker, Local 1475, specifically employed on that date as a stevedore superintendent by Ceres Marine Terminals." (Id,) filed a notice of removal in jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. U.S.C. § 1441(a). (Doc. the instant motion Defendant on Court, § 1331(1) 1.) asserting 18, On July 19, 2016, of (doc. 9), and motion its Accordingly, Plaintiff filed to remand back to state court.3 2016 original and removability under 28 filed a response in opposition to August support this on August (Doc. 4.) Plaintiff's motion Plaintiff filed 31, 2016 a reply (doc. in 11) . Plaintiff's motion to remand has been fully briefed and is ripe for the Court's review. II. Federal Kokkonen v. (1994). courts DISCUSSION are courts Guardian Life Ins. Federal Constitution courts and Id. limited of America, 511 U.S. . . . which is not (citations omitted). to 1441, which provides 375, 377 be expanded by The right to remove a case from state court to federal court derives § jurisdiction. "possess only that power authorized by statute judicial decree." Co. of that "[e]xcept as from 28 otherwise U.S.C. expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant ... to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending." 28 3 On August 4, 2016, the Court granted the parties' joint motion to stay further proceedings in this action pending the Court's decision on Plaintiff's motion to remand. (Doc. 6.) U.S.C. court § 1441(a). to federal jurisdiction is filed. court 1337, construed bears proper at Caterpillar Connecticut F.3d The party seeking to remove a case from state State 1343 the v. Lewis, Dental AssTn v. narrowly, Cir. and any 519 2009). doubts regarding party. Pacheco de Perez v. AT&T Co., (citing Cir. 1996)); Co., 676 v. F.3d 1310, should 1313 be court.") (citing Univ. 405, (11th Cir. original States, of favor resolved of S. Ala, removal 73 v. (1996); Inc., 591 jurisdiction the of existence the is is of non-removing 1373 (11th 85 1505 (11th F.3d 1502, Gen. Fid. Ins. 2012) ("[A]11 doubts about favor of state Am. remand to Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 1999)). § 1333, jurisdiction, . in that 139 F.3d 1368, Sheppard, (11th Cir. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. have for 61, see also City of Vestavia Hills v. jurisdiction 411 resolved in Diaz U.S. Removal jurisdiction are 1998) demonstrating Anthem Health Plans, federal Cir. of the time the petition Inc. (11th burden "[t]he district courts shall exclusive [a]ny civil case of of the courts admiralty or of the maritime jurisdiction, saving to suitors in all cases all other remedies to which The they "saving to are otherwise suitors" entitled." clause of 28 U.S.C. Section § 1333(1). 1333(1), however, "preserves the historical concurrent jurisdiction of the state and federal courts regarding maritime law is competent to provide a remedy." claims where the common Pierce v. Parker Towing Co. , 25 F. Supp. 3d 1372, citations omitted); F.3d 1032, 1037 1375 (S.D. Ala. 2014) (quotations and Beiswenger Enterprises Corp. (11th Cir. 1996) ("This v. Carletta, 'savings to 86 suitors' clause of § 1333 embodies a presumption in favor of jury trials and common law (citations remedies omitted)); State of Cal. in see the forum also of Madruga in & for San Diego Cty., ("Admiralty's jurisdiction is the v. claimant's Superior 346 U.S. 'exclusive' 556, only choice." Court of 560 (1954) to those as maritime causes of action begun and carried on as proceedings in rem, that is, where a vessel or thing is itself treated as the offender and made the defendant by name or description in order to enforce a lien." Under the (citations omitted)). saving to suitors clause, a plaintiff in a maritime case alleging an in personam claim has three options: (1) file suit in federal court under admiralty jurisdiction; (2) file suit in federal court under diversity jurisdiction (or some other applicable state court jurisdictional basis); or pursuing common law remedies. Marine Ins. Co. v. Lago Canyon, (11th Cir. 2009) (3) file St. Paul Fire Inc., 561 F.3d 1181, (citations omitted) . suit 1187 n. in & 13 Because of the concurrent jurisdiction of state and federal courts over maritime claims where the common law is competent to provide a remedy, "a federal district court should not accept the removal of a saving [to suitors] clause case solely because of its general maritime nature: the maritime nature federal jurisdiction." 1385, 1388 (11th Drilling Co., does not provide a ground Armstrong v. Alabama Power Co., Cir. 1982); 648 F.2d 1063, see also Poirrier 1066 (5th Cir. 1981) 667 v. for F.2d Nicklos (The saving to suitors clause does not "limit the right of defendants to remove such actions to federal court where there exists some basis for federal jurisdiction other than admiralty."). There appears to be no dispute that Plaintiff's claims are maritime in nature. As such, if Plaintiff had elected to its claims under this Court's admiralty jurisdiction, would arguably have original subject matter this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1). Co. of W.Va. admiralty v. Imbrovek, jurisdiction 234 extends U.S. to 52, 63 maritime file this Court jurisdiction over See Atl. Transp. (1914) (federal tort committed against stevedore performing job duties on a vessel docked in navigable waters); see also 46 U.S.C. § 30101. Plaintiff, however, chose to bring this action in a state court as a civil in personam action seeking common law remedies (including trial by jury). (Doc. 1-1, at 4-5.) Accordingly, the issue before this Court is whether this case was properly removed under this Court's admiralty jurisdiction where Plaintiff has pursued common law remedies and neither party has alleged an independent basis for subject matter jurisdiction.4 Defendant because matter the has argues that removal aforementioned been Jurisdiction requirement eliminated and Venue was by proper of enactment Clarification Prior to the codification of the Act, 28 this independent of Act in the of U.S.C. subject Federal 2011 § case (the Courts "Act"). 1441 provided in relevant part that: Any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction founded on a claim or right arising under the Constitution, treaties or laws of the United States shall be removable without regard to the citizenship or residence of the parties. Any other such action shall be removable only if none of the parties in interest properly defendants is a citizen action is brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b) (2006). of joined the and State Pursuant to in served which the Act, as such however, 28 U.S.C. § 1441 was amended to provide in relevant part that: Except as otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress, any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants, to the district court of the United 4 Federal question jurisdiction is lacking because general maritime claims do not "arise under the constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States for purposes of federal question jurisdiction." See Armstrong, 667 F.2d at 1388 (citing Romero v. International Terminal Operating Company, 358 U.S. 354 (1959)); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Diversity jurisdiction is lacking because, as set forth in Plaintiff's complaint (doc. 1-1) and uncontroverted by Defendant, Plaintiff and Defendant were both residents of the State of Georgia as of the date of the filing of Plaintiff's complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. While other jurisdictional bases for removal may be created by Congress through statutory law, neither party has alleged the existence of any other jurisdictional basis. See Leonard v. Kern, 651 F. Supp. 263, 264 (S.D. Fla. 1986). States for the district and division place where such action is pending. 28 U.S.C. deletion § 1441(a). of the Constitution, Section 1441 In particular, phrase "founded on treaties now or allows the federal courts' laws removal Defendant the all original jurisdiction. that right United claims the argues a claim or of of embracing under the States'7 that the fall In effect, from within Defendant argues that the aforementioned deletion from Section 1441 allows any case of a general maritime nature to be designated an admiralty case and removed without the need for an independent jurisdictional basis. cites several 2013-2014 Fifth Circuit that, allowed removal on similar by argument, district factual Defendant courts in circumstances, law claims under the have Section See, e.g., Carrigan v. M/V AMC Ambassador, No. 2014 WL 358353 (S.D. Tex. Jan. Phillips 66 Co., La. decisions of general maritime 1441 as amended. H-13-3208, In support of its No. Nov. 19, 2013); F.Supp.2d 772 (S.D. CIV.A. Ryan Tex. 13-477-JJB, v. 31, 2013 WL 6092803 Hercules 2013). 2014); Bridges v. These Offshore, cases (M.D. Inc., held that 945 the aforementioned deletion has erased language relied upon by the Fifth Circuit as the basis for denying the removal of in personam maritime claims and therefore "nothing in § 1441 or any other Act of Congress prevents removal of general maritime claims." Bridges, 2013 358353 at *2; Ryan, WL 6092803 at *4-5; Carrigan, 2014 WL 945 F.Supp.2d at 775-78. Defendant's argument, however, ignores that the language of Section 1441 is not the basis relied upon for denying removal of in personam Pierce, of in maritime 25 F. Supp. personam admiralty claims in the 3d at 1380. maritime jurisdiction Rather, claims alone, Eleventh See in denying the removal based courts Circuit. on in the the existence Eleventh of Circuit have relied upon the saving to suitors clause's protection of a plaintiff's Armstrong, J.P. v. right to pursue common 667 F.2d at 1388; Connell, 93 F. Pierce, Supp. remedies. 25 F. 3d 1298, Mitev v. Resort Sports Limited, Fla. law 1303 Supp. (M.D. See, 3d at 1380; Fla. 133 F. Supp. 3d 1365, 1371 2015); see also Barry v. e.g. , 2015); (S.D. Shell Oil Co., No. CIVA 13-6133, 2014 WL 775662, at *3 (E.D. La. Feb. 25, 2014) ("[T]he saving to suitors clause ... is an Act of Congress that prohibits the removal of the general maritime claims in this case, pursuant to § 1441(a)."). In correctly attacking states the that saving the to saving suitors to clause, suitors Defendant clause only preserves Plaintiff's right to pursue non-maritime remedies,5 but does not necessarily guarantee him a non-federal forum. See 5 "Trial by jury is an obvious, but not exclusive, example of the [nonmaritime] remedies available to suitors." Lewis v. Lewis & Clark Marine, Inc., 531 U.S. 438, 454-55 (2001) (citations omitted). Poirrier, 648 F.2d at 1066. removing this case to federal alone would foreclose jury on his ("[A]s in claim. admiralty trial."); Barry, 2014 here are solely based lack of diversity court ignores, on however, admiralty See cases, WL there 775662, on at general among the Carletta, is *3 no Civ. P. 9(h)(1) & 38(e). would allow the Court jurisdiction predicated were an addition is independent to removal. Lines, lose See, Ltd., see also Fed. this Plaintiff's law. at *3. F.3d law Civ. common See Pierce, Plaintiff's U.S. the right solely on 360 700999, and remedy no *5 In trial that where contrast, exist (i.e., would by Inc. Fla. a for law jury trial Manrique (S.D. is way no Plaintiff Stevedores, (1962); at a claims see also Fed. cited to of jury there is admiralty. basis a to 1037 Mar. not jury upon v. v. in Ellerman Fagan, 16, No. 2009); 9(h)(1). remand law is the only remedy of trial 25 F. Court to law & Gulf 355, P. has the parties at Plaintiff's there jurisdiction), e.g. , Atl. case, Were grant common 2009 WL R. Defendant jurisdictional his 369 08-60501-CIV, In to admiralty necessarily jurisdiction right ("As maritime parties, 86 Plaintiff to have a trial by jury in this Court."); R. that Plaintiff's common law remedy of trial by negligence all Defendant result by that jury under Supp. 3d at 1382; Barry, to accept Defendant's pursue non-maritime preserves existing 2014 WL 775662 interpretation, common law remedies under the saving to See Pierce, alleged no 25 F. suitors clause would become a mere nullity. Supp. reason why 3d the at 1382. State Moreover, Court of Defendant has Chatham County would not be competent to hear Plaintiff's civil in personam action as pled. III. Until the Eleventh Circuit, determines otherwise, established practice personam maritime removal absent jurisdiction. state court remedies. federal and pursuing in under admiralty follow that common basis personam removed to maritime other grounds for removal. do will or Congress the exempts law for long in civil remedies subject from matter Plaintiff elected to bring this action in an claims Supreme Court, Circuit independent Here, admiralty the Court this claims an as this in Defendant Plaintiff's CONCLUSION not claim this pursuing Court jurisdiction common based and law solely upon has urged Complete diversity is lacking, raise jurisdiction a federal alone question. would thus no and Removal preclude Plaintiff's right under the saving to suitors clause of Section 1333(1) to pursue common law remedies, including but not limited to his right to trial by jury. Accordingly, hereby GRANTED, Plaintifffs As such, removal is improper. Motion to Remand (doc. 4) is and this action is REMANDED to the State Court of Chatham County, Georgia. 10 ORDER September, ENTERED at Augusta, Georgia, th is J7* day of 2016. RANDAL HALL STATES W 11 DISTRICT DISTRICT JUDGE OF GEORGIA

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