Godert v. Palo Alto Networks Inc
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 26 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Palo Alto Networks Inc. (Ordered by Senior Judge A. Joe Fish on 9/6/2017) (epm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
KEVIN GODERT, and all similarly
PALO ALTO NETWORKS, INC.,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On October 9, 2013, the plaintiff Kevin Godert (“Godert”) began to work for
the defendant Palo Alto Networks, Inc., (“PAN”) as an appointment setter. See
Plaintiffs’ Original Petition and Request for Disclosure (“Petition”) ¶ 5, attached to
Notice of Removal (“Notice”) (docket entry 1); Plaintiff’s Response to Defendant’s
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (“Response”) at 5-6 (docket entry 33).
Godert asserts that Kevin Hemphill (“Hemphill”), his direct supervisor, assaulted him
on April 1, 2015. Response at 7-8. On February 5, 2016, Godert voluntarily
resigned his position at PAN, but he maintains that he was “was forced to terminate
his employment . . . as a result of the unrelenting torment dished out by [Hemphill].
. . .” Petition ¶ 5; Response at 7-10; Defendant Palo Alto Networks, Inc.’s Brief in
Support of Partial Summary Judgment (“Motion”) at 1 (docket entry 27).
PAN provided workers’ compensation coverage to its employees. Motion at
10; Appendix to Defendant Palo Alto Network [sic], Inc.’s Brief in Support of
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (“Appendix”) at APP. 000148, 000201-202
(docket entry 28). PAN’s employee handbook states that PAN provides workers’
compensation coverage to all employees, and Godert that admits he received the
handbook. Reply at 5; APP. 000048; see also APP. 00109, 000111. Godert did not
file a workers’ compensation claim as a result of the April 1, 2015 incident with
Hemphill. Appendix at APP. 000029.
On June 21, 2016, Godert filed this case in the County Court at Law No. 2 in
Dallas County, Texas, on behalf of himself and similarly situated employees. See
generally Petition; Notice at 1. Godert asserted state law claims for negligence,
negligent supervision, and assault, alleging that PAN failed to prevent Hemphill’s
assault on him. See generally Petition; see also Response at 7-10. He asserted an
additional state law claim for breach of contract due to PAN’s “ever-shifting
commission plans.” Response at 10; see also Petition at 7. He brought one federal
claim for the payment of wages and overtime compensation under the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”). Petition at 6-7. Specifically, Godert contends that
“[a]lthough [he], and most of his co-workers, worked more than forty hours per
workweek, and were encouraged to do so by PAN’s upper management, they never
received any form of overtime pay.” Response at 6.
On July 18, 2016, PAN removed the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 based
upon the federal question raised by Godert. Notice at 2.
A. Removal Jurisdiction
28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) permits the removal of “any civil action brought in a
[s]tate court of which the district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). The statute allows a defendant to “remove a
state court action to federal court only if the action could have originally been filed in
federal court.” Anderson v. American Airlines, Inc., 2 F.3d 590, 593 (5th Cir. 1993).
However, the removal statute must be strictly construed because “removal
jurisdiction raises significant federalism concerns.” Willy v. Coastal Corporation, 855
F.2d 1160, 1164 (5th Cir. 1988); see also Gutierrez v. Flores, 543 F.3d 248, 251 (5th
Cir. 2008). Therefore, “any doubts concerning removal must be resolved against
removal and in favor of remanding the case back to state court.” Cross v. Bankers
Multiple Line Insurance Company, 810 F. Supp. 748, 750 (N.D. Tex. 1992) (Means, J.);
see also Shamrock Oil & Gas Corporation v. Sheets, 313 U.S. 100, 108-09 (1941). The
party seeking removal bears the burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Willy,
855 F.2d at 1164.
There are two principal bases upon which a district court may exercise removal
jurisdiction: the existence of a federal question, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and complete
diversity of citizenship among the parties. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. PAN removed the
case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Notice at 2. PAN contended that this court has
supplemental jurisdiction over Godert’s state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1367 because the state law claims also arise out of Godert’s employment with PAN
and “are so related to the federal claim that they form part of the same case or
B. Non-Removable Workers’ Compensation Claims
The issue before this court is whether Godert’s claims for negligence, negligent
supervision, and assault “arise under” Texas’ workers’ compensation laws, precluding
removal of these claims to this court and requiring a remand to state court pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c). Section 1445(c) provides that “[a] civil action in any State
court arising under the workmen’s compensation laws of such State may not be
removed to any district court of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c).
PAN, the removing party, now contends that Godert’s claims for negligence,
negligent supervision, and assault are barred, as a matter of law, by the exclusivity
provision of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act (“the Act”), TEX. LAB. CODE
§§ 401.001 et seq. Motion at 9-12. Under the Act, the recovery of workers’
compensation benefits “is the exclusive remedy of an employee covered by workers’
compensation insurance coverage . . . against the employer or an agent or employee of
the employer for . . . a work-related injury sustained by the employee.” Id.
§ 408.001(a). Because Godert’s claims for negligence, negligent supervision, and
assault arise under Texas workers’ compensation laws and, by virtue of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1445(c), are not removable to federal court, these claims must be remanded.1 See
28 U.S.C § 1441(c).2
Godert’s remaining causes of action for breach of contract and violation
of the FLSA do not come within the ambit of the non-removability provision of 28
U.S.C. § 1445(c). PAN moves for summary judgment on Godert’s breach of contract
claims as PAN maintains that no valid contracts existed, and the 2015 and 2016
Fiscal Year Compensation Plans at issue expressly permitted PAN to modify or
terminate the plans at any time with or without cause at its discretion. Motion at
14-15. Because the motion presents genuine issues of material fact which can only be
resolved at trial, the motion is DENIED.
§ 1441(c) provides in pertinent part:
(1) If a civil action includes -***
(B) . . . a claim that has been
made nonremovable by statute,
the entire action may be
removed if the action would be
removable without the inclusion
of the claim described in
Upon removal of an action
described in paragraph (1), the
district court shall sever from
the action all claims described in
For the reasons stated above, removal of Godert’s state law claims for
negligence, negligent supervision, and assault was improper under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1445(c). Accordingly, these claims are SEVERED and REMANDED to the
County Court at Law No. 2 in Dallas County, Texas. The clerk shall mail a
certified copy of this memorandum opinion and order to the county clerk of Dallas
County, Texas. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
Godert’s remaining causes of action for breach of contract and violation of the
FLSA do not come within the ambit of the non-removability provision of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1445(c) and thus will be retained on the docket of this court. PAN’s motion for
summary judgment on Godert’s breach of contract claims is DENIED.
September 6, 2017.
A. JOE FISH
Senior United States District Judge
paragraph (1)(B) and shall
remand the several claims to the
State court from which the
action was removed. . . .
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