Ashford v. Aeroframe Servs., LLC, CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:14-cv-992

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Louisiana
Writing for the CourtJUDGE MINALDI
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 2:14-cv-992
PartiesMICHAEL ASHFORD, ET AL., Plaintiffs, v. AEROFRAME SERVICES, LLC, ET AL., Defendants.
Decision Date12 April 2015


CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:14-cv-992


RECEIVED: May 4, 2015
April 12, 2015




Before the court are Michael Ashford's ("Ashford") Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Ruling Denying Motion to Remand [Doc. 48] and Aeroframe Services, LLC's ("Aeroframe") Objection to Magistrate Judge Kay's Ruling Denying Motion to Remand [Doc. 50], to which Aviation Technical Services, Inc. ("ATS") has filed a Response [Doc. 54], to which Ashford and Aeroframe have each filed a Reply [Docs. 55 & 56, respectively]. For the following reasons, the Memorandum Ruling [Doc. 45] is AFFIRMED, IN PART, and REVERSED, IN PART, with the case remanded to the Magistrate Judge for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.


On October 18, 2013, Ashford filed suit against Aerofame, which was his former employer, and ATS in the 13th Judicial Court for Evangeline Parish, Louisiana.1 His complaint alleged that ATS intentionally interfered with an agreement between Aeroframe and another

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company, causing Aeroframe to go out of business.2 As a result of Aeroframe's closure, Ashford was denied wages for his last two weeks of work.3

Ashford lists four claims against Aeroframe and ATS.4 He has one claim against Aeroframe for unpaid wages and penalties in an amount equal to 90-days wages as well as reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and interest.5 Ashford has three claims against ATS: (1) a claim for negligence under Louisiana Civil Code article 2315; (2) intentional interference with contractual relations; and (3) violations of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act.6 For each cause of action against ATS, Ashford claims damages for unpaid work performed and future wages of which he was deprived.7

On March 7, 2014, ATS filed a cross-claim against Aeroframe and a third-party demand against Roger Porter, Aeroframe's CEO.8 It is undisputed that Ashford and Aeroframe are both Louisiana citizens for diversity purposes.9 ATS is a Washington corporation.10

Ashford is represented by Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel, and Wilson, and Somer Brown is his attorney of record.11 On April 15, 2014, Somer Brown sent an email to the plaintiffs in this matter:

For those of you who missed the Aeroframe client meeting on Friday, please allow this to serve as an update and a request for you to execute and return the attached waiver.

. . . It is our belief, now confirmed by undisputed testimony from ATS and Roger Porter, that ATS was the cause of Aeroframe's closure and the loss of your employment and benefits.

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Roger has filed a cross-claim against ATS for his own losses and those of Aeroframe. Aeroframe has retained counsel from Natchitoches who is working cooperatively with us and will not defend against your wage claims. In fact, your entitlement to wages, penalties, and attorney's fees will be stipulated to by Aeroframe.

Roger has approached my partner, Tom Filo, and requested that [he] pursue Roger's individual claim against ATS. Roger has agreed to stipulate in writing that if we represent him, his clients will be paid first out of any monies that he collects. He understands that we will not represent him absent this written agreement.

However, in order for our firm to get involved on behalf of Roger, we need each of our employee-clients to sign the attached conflict waiver. Without this signed document from each of you, we cannot assist Roger in collecting money FOR YOU.12

This email was subsequently forwarded to an employee at ATS, and ATS was made aware of the communication.13 On May 14, 2014, ATS filed a Notice of Removal.14 Ashford, Aeroframe, and Porter thereafter filed Motions to Remand.15 On January 30, 2015, the magistrate judge denied the Motions to Remand.16 Ashford and Aeroframe then appealed that decision to this court.17 Ashford objects on four grounds: (1) the parties should not and need not be realigned; (2) realignment would place the court in an impossible position; (3) there is no settlement agreement, and it is therefore improper to disregard Aeroframe's citizenship; and (4) even if diversity was not lacking, Ashford's claims do not meet the amount in controversy threshold.18 Aeroframe objects because neither a compromise nor a settlement exists between Ashford and Aeroframe.19

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I. Standard of Review

Rule 72(a) dictates that a district judge must review decisions on nondispositive motions by the magistrate judge and "modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law." FED. R. CIV. PRO. 72(a). A finding may be said to be "clearly erroneous" when the reviewing court is "left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Stevens, 487 F.3d 232, 240 (5th Cir.2007) (citation omitted). Rule 72(b)(3) states that in resolving objections to dispositive motions, the district judge "must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to." FED. R. CIV. PRO. 72(b)(3).

Although the law is, perhaps, unsettled in this circuit on this point, district courts in this circuit have generally adhered to the view that motions to remand are non-dispositive pretrial matters and have applied the clearly erroneous standard of review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). See, e.g., Lonkowski v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. Civ. A. 96-1192, 1996 WL 888182, at *2-4 (W.D.La. Dec. 10, 1996); Vaquillas Ranch Co., Ltd. v. Texaco Exploration and Production, Inc., 844 F.Supp. 1156, 1162 (S.D.Tex.1994); Bethay v. Ford Motor Co., No. Civ. A. 99-0367, 1999 WL 496488, at *1 (E.D.La. July 13, 1999). The Fifth Circuit has also implicitly sanctioned the authority of a magistrate judge to consider and issue a remand order in a recent decision. Although the authority of the magistrate judge was not challenged, the Fifth Circuit affirmed an order remanding certain actions without objecting to the magistrate judge's actions. In re 1994 Exxon Chem. Fire, 558 F.3d 378, 382-83 (5th Cir. 2009). Accordingly, a motion to remand is a non-dispositive matter, and this Court will apply a deferential standard of review.

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II. Federal Jurisdiction

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Hower v. Allstate Ins. Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001). Therefore, any doubt as to the propriety of removal must be resolved in favor of a remand, and it is the removing defendant's burden to show that removal was proper. Gutierrez v. Flores, 543 F.3d 248, 251 (5th Cir. 2008); and Richardson Carbon & Gasoline Co. v. Interenergy Res., 99 F.3d 746, 751 (5th Cir. 1996). This case was removed pursuant to the court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. District courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions in which the matter in controversy exceeds $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between the citizens of different states. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. All defendants must consent to...

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