Mayeaux Jr. v. Taylor-Seidenbach, Inc., et al
ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's 11 Motion to Remand is GRANTED and that the case is remanded to the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana. Signed by Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown on 8/15/2017. (mmv) (Additional attachment(s) added on 8/16/2017: # 1 Remand Letter) (mmv).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
GEORGE K. MAYEAUX JR.
CASE NO. 16-16813
TAYLOR-SEIDENBACH, INC., et al.
In this litigation, Plaintiff George K. Mayeaux. (“Plaintiff”) alleges that he suffered
exposure to asbestos and asbestos-containing products that were manufactured, sold, installed,
distributed, and/or supplied by a number of defendant companies while Plaintiff was employed by
Defendant Avondale Industries, Inc.1 Pending before the Court is Plaintiff’s “Motion to Remand.”2
Having considered the motion, the memoranda in support and in opposition, the record, and the
applicable law, the Court will grant the motion and remand this case to the Civil District Court for
the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana.
In this litigation, Plaintiff alleges that he was employed by Avondale from 1963 to 2009.3
During that time, Plaintiff avers that he handled asbestos and asbestos-containing products “aboard
Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 4–5. In particular, the defendants in this action include Huntington Ingalls Inc., OneBeacon
America Ins. Co., Hopeman Bros., Inc., Liberty Mut., Ins. Co., Wayne Mfg., Reilly-Benton Co., Inc., The McCarthy
Co., McCarty-Branton, Maryland Cas. & Sur. Co., Cont’l. Ins. Co., Marquette Insulations, Inc. and Bayer
Cropscience, Inc. Id. at 1–2.
Rec. Doc. 11.
Rec. Doc. 1-2 at 2–3.
U.S. Destroyer Escorts, Lykes, and other vessels,”4 which caused him “to inhale asbestos dust and
fibers, which led to his development of malignant mesothelioma and resultant injuries, damages,
and losses.”5 Plaintiff asserts that each of the named defendants manufactured, sold, installed,
distributed, and/or supplied the asbestos products to which Plaintiff was exposed.6 Plaintiff brings
Louisiana state law claims for negligence against Avondale and other defendants and strict liability
claims against defendants other than Avondale.7
Plaintiff filed a “Petition for Damages” in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans,
State of Louisiana, on October 19, 2016.8 Defendants Huntington Ingalls Inc.9 and OneBeacon
America Insurance Company, the alleged insurer of Henry Carter, a former President of Avondale
(collectively, “Avondale”), removed the case to this Court on December 2, 2016.10 Avondale
alleges that removal is proper because this is action involves claims “for or relating to acts
performed under color of federal office within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1),”11 and
Id. at 3–4.
Id. at 4.
Id. at 4–6.
Id. at 4–6.
Id. at 1.
Defendant Huntington Ingalls Inc. was formerly known as Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Inc.,
formerly known as Avondale Industries Inc., formerly known as Avondale Shipyards, Inc., and formerly known as
Avondale Marine Ways, Inc.
Rec. Doc. 1 at 2.
Id. at 3.
“[b]ecause this Court has federal officer jurisdiction over at least one of the claims asserted by the
plaintiff, it has supplemental jurisdiction over all of the plaintiff’s claims.”12
On December 22, 2016, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant motion to remand.13 On January
10, 2017, Avondale filed a timely Opposition,14 and on January 17, 2017, with leave of Court,
Plaintiff filed a Reply.15 On January 30, 2017, with leave of the Court, Avondale filed a
supplemental memorandum.16 In response, Plaintiff filed a second reply on February 3, 2017. 17
Plaintiff then, with leave of the Court, filed a third reply on May 8, 2017,18 and in response,
Avondale filed a supplemental memorandum.19
II. Parties= Arguments
Avondale’s Notice of Removal
In Avondale’s Notice of Removal, Avondale asserts that this Court has subject matter
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1), as this action is allegedly for or relating to conduct
under color of federal office commenced in a state court against persons acting under one or more
federal officers.20 In particular, Avondale contends that Plaintiff alleges in his Petition for
Id. at 6 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a); Savoie v. Huntington Ingalls Inc. 817, F.3d 457, 463 (5th Cir. 2016).
Rec. Doc. 11.
Rec. Doc. 14.
Rec. Doc. 18.
Rec. Doc. 22.
Rec. Doc. 25.
Rec. Doc. 61.
Rec. Doc. 66.
Rec. Doc. 1 at 2.
Damages that he worked on U.S. Navy Destroyer Escorts, or “Federal Vessels,” where he was
exposed to asbestos.21 According to Avondale, Plaintiff also alleges that he was exposed to
asbestos from his work at Avondale and that he worked in proximity to asbestos-containing
products on U.S. Navy Destroyer Escorts.22
Avondale asserts that it and each of its affiliate entities are corporations and therefore
“persons” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1).23 Avondale further asserts that it was
“acting under” an “officer . . . of the United States or [an] agency thereof” within the meaning of
Section 1442(a)(1) by performing “a task that the federal government would otherwise have had
to perform,” specifically, building ships “used to help conduct a war” and “to further other national
interests.”24 Avondale further asserts that Plaintiff worked on the U.S. Navy Destroyer Escorts
pursuant to “contractual provisions and design specifications mandated by the federal
government.”25 Moreover, Avondale avers that the use of asbestos-containing materials from
which Plaintiff’s causes of action arise was required by the contractual provisions and design
specifications mandated by the federal government, and that the federal government supervised
the construction process to ensure compliance.26
Id. at 3 (citing Savoie, 817 F.3d at 461–62; Winters v. Diamond Shamrock Chem. Co., 149 F.3d 387, 398
(5th Cir. 1998)).
Id. (citing Watson v. Philip Morris Cos, Inc., 551 U.S. 142, 153–54 (2007)).
Id. at 3–4.
Additionally, Avondale purports to assert “two colorable federal defenses” in its Notice of
Removal to Plaintiff’s claims: (1) Plaintiff’s claims are barred under the doctrine of government
contractor immunity established by the Supreme Court in Boyle v. United Technologies Corporation;
and (2) Plaintiff’s claims are preempted and barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”).27 Accordingly, Avondale contends
that removal is proper under the federal officer removal statute.28
Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand
In his motion, Plaintiff argues that remand of this case involving only state law negligence
claims is proper, as Avondale cannot show that it is entitled to removal under the Federal Officer
Removal Statute or the LHWCA.
Federal Officer Removal Statute
Plaintiff asserts that Avondale’s argument invoking the federal officer removal statute fails
because Avondale cannot meet the criteria set forth by the Supreme Court in Mesa v. California,
which requires that Avondale shows: (1) that it was “acting under” the direction of a federal
officer;29 (2) that it has “a colorable defense” to Plaintiff’s claims under the government contractor
defense, where “state law [did] not in any way conflict with any federal duty which might have
been imposed on the Defendants”;30 or (3) that a “causal nexus” existed between a federal officer’s
Id. at 4 (citing Boyle v. United Techs. Corp., 487 U.S. 500 (1988); 33 U.S.C. § 901).
Id. at 6.
Rec. Doc. 11-1 at 11–12.
Id. at 17.
“direct and detailed control” over Avondale and the actions taken by Avondale that resulted in
Plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos.31
First, Plaintiff argues that Avondale cannot show that it is being sued for actions taken at
the direction of a federal officer.32 According to Plaintiff, the test for establishing whether a
defendant was “acting under” a federal officer requires a showing that the acts forming the basis
of the action were performed “pursuant to an officer’s direct orders or to comprehensive and
detailed regulations.”33 Plaintiff contends that establishing that the relevant acts occurred under
the “general auspices” of federal direction is insufficient to warrant removal under Section
Plaintiff argues that the claims in this case are “essentially the same” as the ones made in
Bartel v. Alcoa S.S. Co., a case decided by the Fifth Circuit, alleging “failure to warn, failure to
train, and failure to adopt procedures for the safe installation and removal of asbestos.”35 Plaintiff
avers that Avondale cannot demonstrate that its contracts with the government interfered with its
ability to implement protective measures to reduce the risk of exposure to asbestos.36 Although
Plaintiff points out that the Navy had the power to shut down certain projects, Plaintiff contends
that the Navy “neither imposed any special safety requirements on the shipyard nor prevented the
Id. at 18–19.
Id. at 9 (citing Mesa v. Cal., 489 U.S. 121, 124–25 (1989)).
Id. (citing Overly v. Raybestos-Manhattan, No. C-96-2853 SI., 1996 WL 532150 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 9,
1996); Ryan v. Down Chemical Co., 781 F. Supp. 934, 947 (E.D.N.Y. 1992)).
Id. at 10 (citing Good v. Armstrong World Indus., Inc., 914 F. Supp. 1125, 1128 (E.D. Pa. 1996).
Id. at 11 (citing Bartel v. Alcoa S.S. Co., 805 F. 3d 16, 173 (5th Cir. 2015)).
shipyard from imposing its own safety procedures.”37 Plaintiff further points to the testimony of
Peter Territo, a Safety Director at Avondale, who responded, “no,” during his deposition when
asked whether or not the federal officers that were on board the vessels control[led] the safety
department at Avondale.38 In sum, Plaintiff argues that even if the federal government had the
authority to restrict or control safety decisions, it did not in fact exercise any such authority over
Avondale in this case, and therefore, federal officer removal is not warranted.39
Second, Plaintiff argues that the government contractor defense is not available to
Avondale as a colorable federal defense.40 According to Plaintiff, two conditions must be met in
order to establish that the government contactor defense is a colorable defense: (1) the case
concerns a unique federal issue, and (2) a significant conflict exists between federal policy and
state law as applied to this case.41 Plaintiff avers that since nothing in the federal government
contract prevented Avondale from taking the appropriate safety measures to prevent exposure to
asbestos, there is no conflict between Avondale’s federal and state duties.42 Because the second
condition is not met, Plaintiff contends that the Court need not consider the first under the Fifth
Circuit’s decision in Boyle.43
Id. at 12 (citing Rec. Doc. 11-5 at 34).
Id. at 13.
Id. at 14 (citing Boyle, 108 S. Ct. at 2515).
Id. at 13–21.
Id. at 17.
Finally, Plaintiff argues that Avondale has not shown that a “causal nexus” existed between
Avondale’s actions that are the subject of this lawsuit and any directives of the federal
government.44 Plaintiff contends that under the third-prong of the Mesa test, Avondale must show
“direct and detailed control” by the federal officer over the specific conduct giving rise to
Plaintiff’s action.45 To this end, Plaintiff argues that Avondale has offered no evidence showing
that a federal officer exercised “direct and detailed” control over safety and warnings at Avondale
Shipyard, and in fact, deposition testimony suggests the opposite—that Avondale executives gave
a copy of Avondale’s safety rules to the federal officers on site and told the officers that “they had
to comply with them.”46
Plaintiff also points out that a court in the Eastern District of Louisiana has recognized that
even if Avondale ships were built under the direct supervision of the federal government, nothing
about the supervision prevented Avondale from warning about the dangers, and therefore, the
causal nexus could not be shown.47 Plaintiff contends that the same is true here, and indeed, “the
evidence establishes that the federal government did nothing to prevent Avondale from meeting
its obligation under state law to provide adequate warnings to its employees.”48 Accordingly,
Id. at 18.
Id. (citing Gauthe v. Asbestos Corp., No. 86-2454, 1997 WL 3255 (E.D. La. Jan. 2, 1997); Bahrs v.
Hughes Aircraft Co., 795 F. Supp 965, 969 (D. Ariz. 1992)).
Id. at 19 (citing Gauthe, No. Civ. A. 86-2454, 1997 WL 3255 at *3).
Id. at 21.
Plaintiff concludes that Avondale has failed to establish any of the three criteria of the federal
officer removal statute.49
Removal Pursuant to the LHWCA
Second, Plaintiff argues that Avondale’s LHWCA defense does not provide an independent
basis for removal, and, regardless, the LHWCA supplements, rather than supplants, state law
remedies.50 Plaintiff first points out that Avondale has failed in every previous attempt to argue for
removal upon the LHWCA in the Eastern District of Louisiana.51 Plaintiff then relies on Gauthe
for the assertion that both Louisiana law and the United States Supreme Court have recognized
that the LHWCA does not preempt, but supplements, state remedies available to an injured
worker.52 Plaintiff further asserts that a person injured while engaged in shipbuilding may maintain
an action under either the Louisiana state compensation scheme or the LHWCA.53 Plaintiff notes
that factual questions remain regarding whether Plaintiff was engaged in shipbuilding, but asserts
that even if he was, he has the option to avail himself of the Louisiana state compensation scheme,
and has chosen to do just that.54 Plaintiff also makes clear that he has not availed himself of any
LHWCA benefits and does not seek to do so in his petition, but regardless, any potential LHWCA
Id. at 24.
Rec. Doc. 11-1 at 22.
Id. at 21 (citing Bartley v. Borden , Inc., Nos. Civ.A. 96-145, 96-157 to 96-205, 1996 WL 68482 at *2
(E.D. La. Apr. 14, 1999); McFarlain v. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., C.A. No. 05-1406 (M.D. La. Feb. 7,
2006); Gauthe v. Asbestos Corp., No. 86-2454, 1997 WL 3255 (E.D. La. Jan. 2, 1997); Bourgeois v. A.P. Green,
No. 96-3764 (E.D. La. 2005)).
Id. at 22 (citing Gauthe, 1997 WL 3255).
Id. at 23 (citing a string of cases in Louisiana State Court).
Id. at 23–24.
issues does not require or support removal of his state law claims. Therefore, Plaintiff contends,
Avondale is not entitled to removal under the LHWCA.
Avondale’s Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand
In its opposition memorandum, Avondale argues that the 2011 amendments to the federal
removal statute signal its broad reach.55 Avondale also purports to assert colorable federal defenses
pursuant to the government contract immunity and federal preemption under the LHWCA.56
Avondale asserts that it is not required to win on the merits of these defenses at this stage, but must
only show that the defenses are “plausible.”57
According to Avondale, Plaintiff alleges that he was employed in various capacities by
Avondale, including as a tacker, welder, and shipfitter; that he worked on vessels undergoing
construction at Avondale, including on U.S. Navy Destroyer Escorts; that he was exposed to
asbestos from his work at Avondale and worked “in proximity” to asbestos-containing products
on the Destroyer Escorts; and that he contracted mesothelioma as a result, in part, of occupational
exposures to asbestos at Avondale.58
As such, Avondale asserts that this case was properly removed under the federal officer
removal statute, which extends to contractors performing tasks on behalf of the federal
government.59 According to Avondale, the purpose of 28 U.S.C. § 1442 is to “ensure a federal
forum in any case where a federal official [or person acting under a federal official] is entitled to
Rec. Doc. 14 at 6–10.
Id. at 12–20.
Id. at 8–9.
Id. at 9.
Id. at 11.
raise a defense arising out of his official duties.”60 Avondale asserts that Congress intended for
Section 1442 to be interpreted broadly in favor of removal.61
Avondale argues that all requirements for removal under Section1442 are met here.62 First,
Avondale represents that, as a corporation, it is a “person” within the meaning of Section
1442(a)(1).63 Second, Avondale avers that it acted under color of federal officer when it was
contracted by the federal government to construct the Navy Destroyer Escorts.64
Third, Avondale argues that Plaintiff’s negligence claims satisfy the causal nexus element,
particularly in light of the 2011 amendment to Section 1442.65 According to Avondale, before the
amendment in 2011, the federal officer removal statute allowed removal only when the removing
defendant had been sued “for [an] act under color of [federal] office.”66 Avondale represents that
the causal nexus text under the pre-2011 version of Section 1442 required removing defendants to
show that the “precise wrongful act or omission alleged by the plaintiffs was itself specifically
directed or compelled by federal officers.”67 Now, Avondale avers, the statute provides for broader
Id. at 10 (quoting Arizona v. Maypenny, 451 U.S. 232, 241 (1981)).
Id. (citing Durham v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 445 F.3d 1247, 1252 (9th Cir. 2006); Papp v. Fore-Kast
Sales Co., 842 F.3d 805, 811-12 (3d Cir. 2016)).
Id. at 12–13. In particular, Avondale asserts that it must: “(1) be a person within the meaning of the statute,
(2) have acted under color of federal office, (3) show that a causal nexus exists between its actions under color of
federal office and the plaintiff’s claims, and (4) assert a colorable federal defense.” Id. (citing Winters v. Diamond
Shamrock Chem. Co., 149 F.3d 387, 398-400 (5th Cir. 1998)).
Id. at 12.
Id. at 12–13 (citing Watson v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc., 551 U.S. 142, 153–54 (2007); Wilde v. Huntington
Ingalls Incorporated, 2015 WL 3796444, at *2 (5th Cir. June 19, 2015); Savoie, 817 F.3d at 461.
Id. at 13–14.
Id. (emphasis in original).
Id. at 14.
removal of suits “relating to . . . act[s] under color of [federal] office,” which Avondale contends
establishes a broader “associated” or “in connection with” standard, consistent with the legislative
intent of Congress.68 Here, Avondale argues that “all of the tortious conduct alleged by plaintiff
. . . manifestly ‘relate to’ or are ‘associated’ or ‘connected’ with Avondale’s conduct in fulfilling
its government contracts.”69 Thus, Avondale contends that it has satisfied the third factor under
Section 1442 by showing that there is a causal connection between Plaintiff’s claims and the
Fourth, Avondale argues that it has asserted two “colorable” federal defenses, as Avondale
avers that it is only required to show at this stage that the defense is “plausible.”71 Avondale
contends that one or more of Plaintiff’s claims is barred by its government contractor immunity
defense.72 According to Avondale, to prevail on the merits of its defense, it must establish: “(1) that
the United States approved reasonably precise specifications for the construction of the Navy
Destroyer Escorts; (2) that the Destroyer Escorts conformed to those specifications; and (3) that
Avondale warned the United States of any hazards in using the asbestos-containing components
the United States required to be installed on those Vessels that were known to Avondale but
unknown to the government.”73 Avondale contends that Plaintiff’s argument misses the mark
Id. at 15–16 (emphasis in original).
Id. at 17–18.
Id. at 17–18.
Id. at 18–19.
Id. at 19.
Id. at 19 (citing Boyle, 487 U.S. at 512; Winters, 148 F.3d at 400).
because he focuses on the merits, rather than the plausibility, of the colorable federal defense
asserted by Avondale.74
Avondale avers that the first factor of its defense is met, as the Destroyer Escorts at issue
here were built pursuant to contracts with the United States government that imposed mandatory
specifications on Avondale to use asbestos-containing materials.75 Avondale represents that every
aspect of the shipbuilding process, including the use and application of the asbestos-containing
materials, was monitored for compliance by federal inspectors and other representatives of the
United States government.76 Likewise, Avondale avers that the second factor requiring compliance
with the government’s specifications is easily met and not disputed by Plaintiff.77
Finally, Avondale argues that the third factor is met, as the Fifth Circuit has held that a
government contractor has a duty to warn the government “only of dangers of which it has
knowledge but the government does not.”78 As with the compliance factor, Avondale asserts that
plaintiff does not contest Avondale’s allegation that the United States had knowledge about the
hazards of asbestos and even provided hazard information to commercial shipbuilding
contractors.79 Avondale relies on the affidavit of Thomas F. McCaffery, maritime technical
consultant and researcher,80 to show that the Navy has kept abreast of the hazards of asbestos from
Id. at 20.
Id. at 22.
Id. at 22–23.
Id. at 23–24.
Id. at 24 (citing Miller v. Diamond Shamrock Co., 275 F.3d 414, 422 (5th Cir. 2001); Trevino v. Gen
Dynamics Corp., 865 F.2d 1474, 1487 (5th Cir. 1989)).
Id. at 24–25.
Rec. Doc. 14-1 at 1.
the 1940s to present.81 Accordingly, Avondale argues that the evidence satisfies all three criteria
and is therefore sufficient to establish a colorable defense.82
Avondale next argues that it has a colorable federal defense under the LHWCA, as one or
more of Plaintiff’s claims is preempted and barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the
LHWCA.83 Avondale acknowledges that Plaintiff asserts that factual questions exist with respect
to whether Plaintiff was ever engaged in shipbuilding but notes that the defense need only be
colorable.84 Avondale argues that the “colorable” requirement applies not only to questions of fact
in the case but also to questions of federal law.85
Avondale avers that to be covered by the LHWCA, a worker must satisfy a “situs and a
status test.”86 Avondale asserts that Plaintiff’s work involved building ships, and therefore the
“status test” is satisfied.87 Avondale further asserts that its facility was at all times situated upon
the navigable waters of the United States and their adjacent banks, and therefore, the “situs test”
is also satisfied.88 Avondale concludes that Plaintiff is covered by the LHWCA because both tests
Rec. Doc. 14 at 22.
Id. at 25.
Id. at 25–26.
Id. at 26 (citing, e.g., North East Marine Terminal Co. v. Caputo, 432 U.S. 249, 264-65 (1977); New
Orleans Depot Servs., Inc. v. Dir., Office of Worker’s Comp. Programs, 718 F.3d 384, 389 (5th Cir. 2013)).
Id. at 26.
Id. at 26–27.
Id. at 27.
Lastly, Avondale argues that injured shipbuilders may pursue either LHWCA benefits or
state workers’ compensation benefits, not LHWCA benefits and state tort law actions for
damages.90 Avondale asserts that mesothelioma was not a compensable occupational disease under
the pre-1975 versions of the Louisiana Workers Compensation Act.91 Avondale further asserts that
Plaintiff’s alleged exposures to asbestos at its facility occurred from 1963 to 1974.92 Therefore,
Avondale argues, because Plaintiff is not covered by the Louisiana Workers Compensation Act,
the LHWCA governs by default as Plaintiff has no alternative compensation statute under which
he may seek benefits.93 Avondale thus concludes that the LHWCA preempts Plaintiff’s Louisiana
state tort actions for asbestos exposures covered by the LHWCA, and therefore, removal is
Plaintiff’s Arguments in Further Support of the Motion to Remand
In reply, Plaintiff argues that Avondale’s arguments in support of the casual nexus
requirement fail, because Avondale failed “to offer factual proof that its asbestos safety program,
or lack of it, was associated with or connected to its U.S. Navy contracts for construction of the
Destroyer Escorts.”95 Plaintiff points out that Avondale only produced affidavits and deposition
testimony as to the terms of the contract, not the contracts themselves.96 According to Plaintiff,
Id. at 27.
Rec. Doc. 18 at 1.
although Avondale was required to comply with the Welsh-Healey Act which establishes safety
and health standards for work on certain government contracts, nothing in the contracts mandates
how Avondale must comply with the Act, nor do the contracts contain any provisions that specify
the structure, management, or implementation of the worker safety program at Avondale.97 Thus,
Plaintiff contends, he has raised a factual attack on Avondale’s jurisdictional allegations, and the
burden now shifts to Avondale to support its allegations by a preponderance of the evidence that
the colorable federal defense and casual nexus requirements are met.98 Plaintiff asserts that
Avondale has failed to meet its burden.99
Plaintiff also reiterates that he was never engaged in shipbuilding on the water, and
therefore, he was not a longshoreman.100 Accordingly, plaintiff argues, the LHWCA is
inapplicable and does not confer federal jurisdiction.101
Finally, Plaintiff argues that several courts have already addressed the federal officer
removal statute after the 2011 amendment and still require the colorable federal defense and causal
nexus requirements to be shown by a preponderance of the evidence.102 Plaintiff contends that
Avondale has failed to show any specification for supervision or control of Avondale’s worker
safety program in the government contracts.103 Therefore, Plaintiff concludes, Avondale fails to
Id. at 1–2.
Id. at 2.
Id. at 3.
Id. at 4.
satisfy the requirements of the federal officer removal statute and cannot rely on the government
contractor defense or the LHWCA as colorable federal defenses to Plaintiff’s claims.104
E. Avondale’s Supplemental Memorandum in Further Opposition
In its supplemental memorandum, Avondale informs the Court of the Fifth Circuit’s
decision in Zeringue v. Crane Co. rendered on January 20, 2017, and argues that the case provides
supplemental authority in support of Avondale’s opposition to Plaintiff’s motion to remand.105
Avondale specifically argues that the Zeringue court directly addressed the 2011 amendment and
held that it “expanded the breadth of acts sufficient to establish a causal nexus even further,”
contrary to Plaintiff’s assertion that the causal connection requires a showing of precise federal
direction.106 Avondale also argues that the Zeringue court affirmed the proposition that “federal
officer removal does not require a defendant to ‘win his case before he can have it removed’” and
defined a non-colorable federal defense as “a defense that is immaterial and made solely for the
purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or that is wholly insubstantial and frivolous.”107 Finally,
Avondale contends that the Zeringue court specifically articulated in a footnote that the LHWCA
covers workers injured on land while involved in shipbuilding activities.108 Therefore, according
to Avondale, Zeringue supports and advances its argument that the federal defense it asserts under
the LHWCA is plausible, and therefore the colorable federal defense requirement is met.109
Id. at 5.
Rec. Doc. 22.
Id. at 2 (citing Zeringue v. Crane Co., 846 F.3d 785, 793 (5th Cir. Jan. 20, 2017)).
Id. at 3 (quoting Zeringue, 846 F.3d at 790)
Id. at 4.
Id. at 3–4.
F. Plaintiff’s Second Reply in Support of Remand
In a second reply filed on February 3, 2017, Plaintiff addresses the Zeringue decision and
asserts that although the court in Zeringue found that the defendant had asserted a colorable federal
defense in that case, the case is factually and legally distinguishable from the one before this
Court.110 Plaintiff argues first that Zeringue is a design defect/product liability case, which
significantly differs from the negligence claims against Avondale for failure to provide a safe
workplace, which led to Plaintiff’s asbestos exposure, brought here.111 Second, Plaintiff argues
that the Zeringue court indeed found that the warnings at issue in that case were subject to Navy
specifications and requirements, and that it was the Navy’s discretionary decisions, not the
defendant’s, that resulted in the plaintiff’s injury.112 Third, Plaintiff argues that in interpreting the
2011 amendment, the Zeringue court found that the causal connection could be established by
showing that the federal officer’s relationship to the plaintiff derived “solely from the officer’s
official duties,” and here, Plaintiff argues, Avondale was acting in its personal capacity.113 Plaintiff
further argues that he was never engaged in “maritime employment” as defined by the LHWCA.114
Therefore, Plaintiff asserts, Avondale fails to satisfy the requirements of the federal officer
removal statute, and the case should be remanded.115
Rec. Doc. 25 at 1.
Id. at 1–2.
Id. at 2.
Id. at 2–3.
Id. at 3.
Id. at 4.
G. Plaintiff’s Third Reply in Support of Remand
In a third reply filed on May 8, 2017, Plaintiff points to the decision in Legendre v.
Huntington Ingalls rendered by a court in the Eastern District of Louisiana on April 25, 2017, and
argues that the case provides supplemental persuasive authority in support of his motion to
remand.116 Plaintiff argues that in Legendre, the court followed the Fifth Circuit’s decision in
Savoie v. Huntington Ingalls Incorporated, to the extent it found an insufficient causal relationship
between the government’s mandated use of asbestos in the construction of ships and Avondale’s
safety precautions.117 Accordingly, Plaintiff asks this Court to consider the Legendre decision and
grant Plaintiff’s motion to remand.118
H. Avondale’s Supplemental Memorandum in Opposition
In a supplemental memorandum filed on May 12, 2017, Avondale argues that the holding
in Legendre, i.e., that Savoie is authoritative law with respect to negligence claims, is in direct
conflict with the Fifth Circuit’s decisions noting that the issue of whether the 2011 amendment
covers negligence claims, is still res nova in this Circuit.119
III. Law and Analysis
Pursuant to the current text of 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1), a civil action commenced in state
court against “[t]he United States or any agency thereof or any officer (or any person acting under
Rec. Doc. 61 at 1.
Id. at 1–2.
Rec. Doc. 66 at 1.
that officer) of the United States or of any agency thereof, in an official or individual capacity, for
or relating to any act under color of such office” may be removed to federal court. The purpose of
the federal officer removal statute is to protect the federal government from undue state
interference of its lawful activities.120 Before Section 1442(a)(1) was amended in 2011, a person
acting under a federal officer could only remove a case to federal court if the state lawsuit was “for
any act under color of such office;” after the 2011 amendment, Section 1442 allows removal of a
state suit “for or relating to any act under color of such office.”121 According to the Fifth Circuit,
“[t]he plain meaning of the added language broadens the scope of the statute as the ordinary
meaning of [relating to] is a broad one—‘to stand in some relation; to have bearing or concern; to
pertain; refer; to bring into association with or connection with.’”122
Unlike the general removal statute, which must be “strictly construed in favor of remand,”
the federal officer removal statute’s language must be liberally interpreted.123 Nonetheless, its
“broad language is not limitless.”124 It is the removing party’s burden to establish the existence of
federal jurisdiction over the controversy.125 An order remanding a case to state court that was
See Mesa v. California, 489 U.S. 121, 126 (1989); Bartel v. Alcoa Steamship Co., 64 F. Supp. 3d 843,
852–53 (M.D. La. 2014), aff’d sub nom. Bartel v. Alcoa S.S. Co., 805 F.3d 169 (5th Cir. 2015); St. Bernard Port,
Harbor & Terminal Dist. v. Violet Dock Port, Inc., LLC, 809 F. Supp. 2d 524, 529 (E.D. La. 2011) (Vance, J.).
28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1) (emphasis added); Zeringue, 846 F.3d at 793 (discussing the 2011 amendment).
Zeringue, 846 F.3d at 793 (quotation marks omitted).
Watson v. Philip Morris Companies, Inc., 551 U.S. 142, 147 (2007); Winters, 149 F.3d at 398
(“Furthermore, this right is not to be frustrated by a grudgingly narrow interpretation of the removal statute.”); Bartel,
64 F. Supp. 3d at 852–53; St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal Dist., 809 F. Supp. 2d at 529.
Watson, 551 U.S. at 147; Winters, 149 F.3d at 397.
Winters v. Diamond Shamrock Chem. Co., 149 F. 3d 387, 397 (5th Cir. 1998); St. Bernard Port, Harbor
& Terminal Dist., 809 F. Supp. 2d at 529. In his reply, Plaintiff erroneously cites 9th Circuit law for the proposition
that in jurisdictional disputes generally, when a movant makes a factual attack on the existence of subject matter
jurisdiction, the burden is on the nonmovant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that subject matter
jurisdiction exists. Rec. Doc. 18 at 2. Before the Court is Plaintiff’s motion to remand in opposition to Defendant’s
removed pursuant to the federal officer removal statue is appealable under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d)
and is reviewed de novo by the Fifth Circuit, “without a thumb on the remand side of the scale.”126
The Fifth Circuit has adopted a three-part inquiry to determine whether a government
contractor qualifies as a “person acting under [a federal] officer” who is sued “in an official or
individual capacity for any act under color of such office.”127 The contractor must prove that: (1)
it is a “person” within the meaning of the statute; (2) it acted pursuant to a federal officer’s
directions, and a causal nexus exists between its actions under color of federal office and the
plaintiff’s claims; and (3) it has a colorable federal defense to the plaintiff’s claims.128
Plaintiff argues that remand is appropriate because Avondale has failed to satisfy all four
requirements of the federal officer removal statute.129 Avondale argues that it is entitled to removal
under the federal officer removal statute because it is a person within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. §
1442(a)(1), it acted under color of federal office in building the Navy Destroyer Escorts, it has
shown that plaintiff’s claims satisfy the causation element of the removal statute as amended, and
it has asserted a colorable federal defense.130 As stated supra, in order to show that removal under
the federal officer removal statute is proper, Avondale must show that: (1) it is a “person” within
removal under the federal officer removal statute, which requires a different burden of proof and standard of review
than is applied in jurisdictional disputes generally. Winters, 149 F. 3d at 397.
Savoie v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc., 817 F.3d 457, 460 (5th Cir. 2016).
Id.; St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal Dist., 809 F. Supp. 2d at 529.
Winters, 149 F.3d at 397; Savoie, 817 F.3d at 460; St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal Dist., 809 F.
Supp. 2d at 529.
Rec. Doc. 11-1 at 24.
Rec. Doc. 14.
the meaning of the statute; (2) it acted pursuant to a federal officer’s directions, and a causal nexus
exists between its actions under color of federal office and the plaintiff’s claims; and (3) it has a
colorable federal defense to the plaintiff’s claims.131 With regard to the first factor, Plaintiff does
not dispute that Avondale as a corporation qualifies as a “person” within the meaning of Section
1442. Both the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit have recognized that the removal statute
applies to both private persons and corporate entities “‘who lawfully assist’ the federal officer ‘in
the performance of his official duty.’”132 Therefore, the Court finds that Avondale has sufficiently
shown that it is a “person” within the meaning of the federal officer removal statute.
With regard to the second factor, Plaintiff argues that Avondale cannot show that a federal
officer directed or controlled their safety- and warning-related activities, or that there is a causal
nexus between Avondale’s actions under color of federal office and Plaintiff’s negligence
claims.133 In opposition, Avondale asserts that, under the current “for or relating to” language of
Section 1442(a)(1), it has demonstrated that all of the breaches of duty Plaintiff alleges “relate to”
Avondale’s conduct in fulfilling its contracts with the federal government for the construction of
the Navy Destroyer Escorts, and therefore, Plaintiff’s negligence claims are “related to” its actions
pursuant to the federal government’s directions.134
28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1); Winters, 149 F.3d at 397; Savoie, 817 F.3d at 460; St. Bernard Port, Harbor &
Terminal Dist., 809 F. Supp. 2d at 529; see also Blouin v. Huntington Ingalls Inc., No. 17-2636, 2017 WL 2628103,
at *5 (E.D. La. June 19, 2017) (Zainey, J.).
Savoie, 817 F.3d at 461 (quoting Watson, 551 U.S. at 151 (quoting Davis v. South Carolina, 107 U.S. 597,
Rec. Doc. 11-1 at 11–12, 17–21.
Rec. Doc. 15 at 17.
In Bartel v. Alcoa S.S. Company, a 2015 case decided after Section 1442(a) was amended
in 2011, the Fifth Circuit explained that it is “necessary but not sufficient for a defendant to show
it ‘acted pursuant to a federal officer’s directions,’” as the removing party must also show that a
causal nexus exists.135 In Bartel, the Fifth Circuit instructed that, when considering whether a
causal nexus exists for removal, it is “important to understand the nature of the plaintiffs’
allegations . . . [for] failure to warn, failure to train, and failure to adopt procedures for the safe
installation and removal of asbestos.”136 Thus, the Bartel court opined that the proper approach for
such negligence claims is to consider whether the federal government exercised control over safety
requirements such that a failure to warn was caused by the government’s instructions.137 Because
the defendants “[could] do no better than to show that the federal government owned the vessels
in question” and did not produce evidence that the government issued orders relating to safety
procedures or asbestos, the Fifth Circuit held that remand was proper.138 “What little evidence
there is suggests the Federal Officer Defendants operated the vessels in a largely independent
fashion and, at a minimum, were free to adopt the safety measures the plaintiffs now allege would
have prevented their injuries.”139
A year later in Savoie v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc., the Fifth Circuit again held that, “with
respect to the [plaintiff’s] negligence claims, we agree with the district court that the federal
Bartel v. Alcoa S.S. Co., 805 F.3d 169, 172 (5th Cir. 2015) (emphasis added) (quoting Winters, 149 F.3d
Id. at 173.
Id. (citing Lalonde v. Delta Field Erection, No. 96-3244, 1998 WL 34301466, at *1 (M.D. La. Aug. 6,
Id. at 174.
government’s mandate of asbestos insulation did not cause the shipyard to engage in the
challenged conduct.”140 In other words, the Fifth Circuit concluded that negligence claims for
failing to warn of the dangers of asbestos or to take safety precautions against asbestos exposure
“did not challenge actions taken under color of federal authority even though the government was
responsible for the existence of the asbestos.”141 The Fifth Circuit noted that the shipyard failed to
demonstrate that its government contracts “prevented it from taking any of these protective
measures identified by Plaintiffs,” as an affidavit stating that the Navy inspected and oversaw the
vessels for safety was insufficient to trigger jurisdiction under Section 1442(a)(1).142 The Fifth
Circuit further pointed out that the other evidence presented made clear that the government had
no control over the shipyard’s safety procedures or safety department.143 In sum, the Fifth Circuit
concluded that because the plaintiff’s negligence claims “challenge[d] discretionary acts of the
shipyard free of federal interference” and “the government’s directions to the shipyard via the
contract specifications did not cause the alleged negligence,” claims for removal on those grounds
were not proper.144 However, the Fifth Circuit determined that the plaintiff’s strict liability claims
against the shipyard, which were premised on the “mere use of asbestos” and “do not turn on
discretionary decisions made by the shipyard,” supported federal officer removal.145
817 F.3d 457, 462 (5th Cir. 2016).
Id. at 463.
Id. at 465.
This litigation was removed to this Court by Defendants Avondale, OneBeacon America
Insurance Company, and Henry Carter.146 In his Petition for Damages, Plaintiff brings negligence
claims against Avondale and alleges that OneBeacon America Insurance Company is liable to
Plaintiff as Avondale’s insurer.147 Plaintiff does not assert any strict liability claims against
Defendants Avondale, Henry Carter, and OneBeacon America Insurance Company.148
Based on the foregoing and in light of the Fifth Circuit’s holdings in Bartel and Savoie, the
Court finds that Avondale has not shown the second prong of the federal officer removal statute is
met, i.e. that a causal nexus exists between its actions under color of federal office and the
plaintiff’s claims.149 Plaintiff has only brought negligence claims against Avondale for its alleged
failure to take certain safety precautions and warn Plaintiff about the dangers of asbestos.150
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Avondale breached its responsibilities and was negligent: (1) by
failing to provide to him proper respirators which, would prevent or reduce his inhalation of
dangerous levels of asbestos dust and fibers; (2) by failing to have a written and adequate
respiratory program; (3) by failing to require employees to wear appropriate respiratory protective
equipment when exposed to asbestos dust and fibers; (4) by failing to warn or inform Plaintiff
regarding the dangers involved in inhaling asbestos dust and fibers and the protective measures to
be followed to prevent or reduce exposures; (5) by failing to provide adequate ventilation and
Rec. Doc. 1.
Id. at 1.
Id. at 3; Rec. Doc. 11-1 at 2 (“[Plaintiff] asserted negligence only claims against Avondale . . . .”).
Winters, 149 F.3d at 397; Savoie, 817 F.3d at 460; St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal Dist., 809 F.
Supp. 2d at 529.
Id. at 3; Rec. Doc. 11-1 at 2.
implement proper administrative and engineering controls to eliminate and/or reduce Plaintiff’s
exposure to asbestos dust and fibers; (6) by failing to conduct adequate air monitoring or dust
sampling to detect asbestos in the air; (7) by failing to isolate work activities involving the handling
and use of asbestos, and not wetting down asbestos when it was removed and/or handled; (8) by
negligently delegating the safety responsibility to employees who lacked the training, education,
experience and expertise to properly discharge that duty, particularly with respect to the hazard of
asbestos, and by not adequately monitoring how the safety officers discharged their duties; (9)
taking inadequate measures to protect the health and safety of its employees, including George K.
Mayeaux, Jr.; and (10) by developing and implementing an inadequate safety program with respect
to the hazard of asbestos.151
Avondale contends that all of the breaches of duty Plaintiff alleges “relate to” Avondale’s
conduct in fulfilling its contracts with the federal government for the construction of the Navy
Destroyer Escorts.152 Avondale further argues that the 2011 amendment to the text of Section
1442(a)(1) widens the scope of the federal officer removal statute.153 However, as the Fifth Circuit
has made clear in two cases since the amended version of 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1) has been in
effect, Savoie v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc. and Zeringue v. Crane Company, removal is not proper
when the “federal government’s mandate of asbestos insulation did not cause the shipyard to
engage in the challenged conduct.”154 Indeed, in Zeringue, the Fifth Circuit directly addressed the
Id. at 3.
See Rec. Doc. 14 at 17.
Id. at 6–10.
Savoie, 817 F.3d at 462.
effect of the 2011 amendment on Section 1442 and confirmed that the statute, “both before and
after the 2011 amendment,” requires the causal nexus prong to be satisfied.155 The Zeringue Court
further confirmed that while the 2011 amendment expanded the breadth of acts within the removal
statute’s reach, courts should not “attenuate the causal nexus requirement ‘to the point of
While the Zeringue court ultimately concluded that removal was proper because the
manufacturer-defendant had shown that it was ordered by the Navy to provide the asbestoscontaining parts on which the plaintiff’s strict liability claims were premised, it recognized that its
holding was consistent with its decision in Bartel, which involved claims for failure to warn or
provide safety measures analogous to Plaintiff’s here.157 The Fifth Circuit recognized that the
conduct in Bartel “implicated no federal interest,” and allowing those defendants to remove
“would have stretched the causal nexus requirement to the point of irrelevance.”158 Thus, contrary
to Avondale’s suggestion that the decision in Zeringue supports removal here, Zeringue confirms
that Bartel remains good law.159 By contrast, Avondale does not distinguish the facts of this case
from the negligence claims in Bartel and Savoie or otherwise show how Plaintiff’s claims are
“related to” Avondale’s acts under color of federal office such that a causal nexus exists.
Zeringue, 846 F.3d at 793.
Id. at 794.
Id. at 788, 794.
Id. at 794.
See, e.g., Blouin v. Huntington Ingalls Inc., No. 17-2636, 2017 WL 2628103, at *6 (E.D. La. June 19,
2017) (Zainey, J.) (“Simply, Zeringue expressly recognizes that Bartel remains a correct result even under the 2011
Here, as in Bartel, Plaintiff only asserts negligence claims against his employer, Avondale,
for its failure to meet its duties to Plaintiff. Moreover, Avondale has adduced no evidence that the
federal government prevented Avondale from taking the protected measures identified by Plaintiff
or exercised control over Avondale’s safety procedures or safety department.160 In other words,
Avondale has not demonstrated that its own discretionary decisions to allegedly fail to warn or
protect Plaintiff from the dangers of asbestos while Plaintiff was employed by Avondale resulted
from or is “related to” its actions under color of federal office, to the extent that any such actions
exist.161 As such, this case is distinguishable from Papp v. Fore-Kast Sales Company, cited by
Avondale and decided by the Third Circuit in 2016,162 where the court found evidence that the
federal government exercised some control over asbestos warnings and safety materials, and thus
removal of a failure to warn claim was proper.163 Rather, similar to the plaintiff in Savoie, Plaintiff
has pointed to testimony by two former Avondale Safety Directors confirming that the federal
government did not exercise any control over Avondale’s safety department or its compliance with
In short, Avondale has identified no evidence nor any plausible reason to distinguish this
matter from the Fifth Circuit’s holdings in Bartel, Savoie, and Zeringue, or the recent conclusions
of several district courts that rejected the same arguments put forth by Avondale here, including
Savoie, 817 F.3d at 463.
28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1).
842 F.3d 805, 813 (3d Cir. 2016).
Sawyer, 860 F.3d at 258 (noting that the Navy dictated the content of warnings on the defendant’s boilers);
Papp, 842 F.3d at 813 (pointing out that the United States Armed Forces exercised control over the written materials
and warnings associated with the aircraft at issue).
See Rec. Doc. 11-1 at 4–6.
Legendre v. Huntington Ingalls Inc.165 Allowing removal of Plaintiff’s claims premised on
Avondale’s discretionary decisions would not serve the basic purpose of Section 1442, i.e. “to
protect the Federal Government from . . . interference with its ‘operations.’”166 Accordingly,
because Avondale has not shown that the necessary causal nexus exists between Avondale’s
actions under color of federal office and Plaintiff’s claims, and Avondale must establish all three
criteria of the Fifth Circuit’s three-part inquiry to invoke the federal removal statute, the Court
finds that removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1) was improper. 167 Accordingly, the Court
concludes that the above-captioned matter must be remanded for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, and therefore grants Plaintiff’s motion to remand.168
Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that removal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1)
was improper, as Avondale has not shown that the necessary causal nexus exists between
Avondale’s actions under color of federal office and Plaintiff’s negligence claims. Avondale has
not pointed to any evidence that the federal government controlled Avondale’s safety procedures
Legendre v. Huntington Ingalls Inc., No. 17-2162, 2017 WL 1458209, at *5 (E.D. La. Apr. 25, 2017)
(Africk, J.) (finding that Avondale failed to establish a causal nexus with the plaintiff’s negligence claims challenging
Avondale’s discretionary decisions); see also, e.g., Blouin, No. 17-2636, 2017 WL 2628103, at *6 (rejecting
Avondale’s argument that it could remove claims for failure to warn and failure to implement safety measures under
the 2011 amendments to Section 1442); see also, e.g., Wilde v. Huntington Ingalls Inc., No. 15-1486, 2015 WL
2452350, at *6 (E.D. La. May 21, 2015) (Fallon, J.) (determining that there was no evidence that the government
restricted Avondale’s ability to warn of the asbestos dangers, and therefore there was no jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s
failure to warn claims).
Watson v. Philip Morris Companies, Inc., 551 U.S. 142, 142 (2007).
Savoie, 817 F.3d at 460. Because the Court finds that Avondale has not satisfied the causal nexus
requirement for removal under Section 1442(a)(1), the Court need not address Plaintiff’s arguments that Avondale
also lacks a colorable federal defense.
Id. at 462; Bartel, 805 F.3d at 172.
or safety department such that its alleged failure to warn or protect Plaintiff from the dangers of
asbestos is “related to” its actions under color of federal office. Accordingly,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand169 is GRANTED and that
the case is remanded to the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana.
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA, this 15th
day of August, 2017.
NANNETTE JOLIVETTE BROWN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Rec Doc. 11.
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