Gregoire v. Enter. Marine Servs., LLC, CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-840 SECTION "K"(3)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 14-840 SECTION "K"(3)
Decision Date06 August 2014




August 6, 2014


Before the Court is Plaintiff Dewayne Gregoire's Motion to Remand the Instant Action to the 32nd Judicial District Court for the Parish of Terrebonne, Louisiana. (R. Doc. 6). Having reviewed the pleadings, memoranda, and the relevant law, the Court, for the reasons assigned, GRANTS the motion for remand.


On March 1, 2014, Dewayne Gregoire ("Gregoire") filed a "Seaman's Petition for Damages" in the 32nd Judicial District Court for the Parish of Terrebonne against Enterprise Marine Services, L.L.C. ("Enterprise") and ABC Insurance Company ("ABC"), alleging claims "under the Jones Act and the General Maritime Law" for personal injuries sustained while working for Enterprise and invoking the "saving to suitors" clause under 28 U.S.C. § 1333. (R. Doc. 1-2, 2). In his petition, Gregoire alleges that he was a crew member of the M/V Marie, an Enterprise vessel, and was a seaman under the terms and conditions of the Jones Act in the course and scope of his employment as a tankerman on the vessel. (R. Doc. 1-2, 2). Gregoire alleges that, while serving on the M/V Marie, he sustained injuries from a slip and fall accident as a result of the unseaworthiness of the vessel and negligence of the Defendant. (R. Doc. 1-2. 34). In addition, Gregoire asserts in his petition that he is entitled to recover maintenance and

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cure from the Defendants. (R. Doc. 1-2, 6). Gregoire further alleges that Defendants spoiled evidence in failing to preserve evidence of the scene of the accident. (R. Doc. 1-2, 7). Thus, Gregoire's petition sets forth the following four counts: (i) unseaworthiness of Enterprise's vessels; (ii) negligence under the Jones Act and General Maritime Law; (iii) maintenance and cure; and (iv) spoliation of evidence. (R. Doc. 1-2, 5-8). On March 12, 2014, Enterprise was served with a copy of Gregoire's suit and avers that it timely removed the suit from Louisiana state court on April 10, 2014 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sections 1441 and 1333. (R. Doc. 7, 3). Gregoire then timely filed the instant Motion to Remand. (R. Doc. 6).

In his Motion to Remand, Gregoire asserts that suits alleging Jones Act claims alone or in conjunction with general maritime law claims may not be removed from state court. (R. Doc. 61, 3). Gregoire avers that Jones Act claims are unquestionably non-removable under 28 U.S.C. § 1445(a), as incorporated by 46 U.S.C. § 30104, and general maritime law causes of action asserted under the saving to suitors clause are not within the original jurisdiction of the federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333. (R. Doc. 6-1, 8). Therefore, Gregoire contends that general maritime law claims asserted in connection with Jones Act claims do not make the Jones Act claims removable under the removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c). (R. Doc. 6-1, at 3). Because Gregoire believes that the Defendant lacked a reasonable basis for seeking removal, Gregoire requests "payment of just costs and actual expenses" pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). (R. Doc. 6-1, 13).

In opposition, Enterprise asserts that, because "Plaintiff's Jones Act claim is joined with other claims which are removable under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), the Jones Act claims is [sic] also removable under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c)." (R. Doc. 7, 2). Enterprise bases its conclusion on its assertion that general maritime law claims are removable based on jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §

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1333, despite noting that, historically, courts have not considered such claims to be removable. (R. Doc.7, 6). Because of the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 20111 ("2011 Amendments"), however, Enterprise asserts that 28 U.S.C. Section 1441(b) no longer prohibits removal of general maritime law claims except with "other caveats or restrictions" and those claims "fall within the federal court's original jurisdiction" making them removable under Section 1441(a). (R. Doc. 7, 7-9). Therefore, under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c), the Jones Act claims are removable along with the general maritime law claims. As to the Jones Act claim, however, Enterprise does "concede that it is well-settled that actions arising under the Jones Act may be filed in state or federal courts and are generally not removable." (R. Doc. 7, 10). Thus, Enterprise contends in the alternative that, should the Court find that the Jones Act claim remains non-removable, the Jones Act claim alone may be severed from the removable general maritime law claims of unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure and remanded to the state court. Id.


Unless "otherwise expressly provided by Act of Congress," a defendant may remove "any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). It is well-settled that, when faced with a motion to remand, the removing party "bear[s] the burden of showing that federal jurisdiction exists." De Aguilar v. Boeing Co. 47 F.3d 1404, 1408 (5th Cir.1995). In determining whether jurisdiction exists, the court considers jurisdictional facts as they exist "at the time of removal." Cavallini v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 44 F.3d 256, 264 (5th Cir.1995). Additionally, because removal jurisdiction implicates important federalism concerns, the federal removal statute is subject to strict construction. Willy v. Coastal Corp., 855 F.2d 1160, 1164 (5th Cir.1988); Frank v. Bear

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Stearns & Co., 128 F.3d 919, 922 (5th Cir. 1997). Any ambiguities regarding whether removal jurisdiction is proper should be resolved in favor of the party seeking remand and against federal jurisdiction. See, e.g., Manguno v. Prudential Property and Cas. Ins. Co., 276 F.3d 720, 723 (5th Cir. 2002).


The motion to remand in this matter places at issue whether a maritime matter instituted in state court falls within the removal jurisdiction of this Court, "a question that has been beset by confusion and uncertainty over the years"2 and that has been further complicated by discord among district courts in their recent opinions on the matter. The issue in this case hinges upon the operation of the "saving to suitors clause," 28 U.S.C. § 1333, with respect to removal of maritime and admiralty claims under the removal statute. Recent district court opinions evidence a split in opinion as to whether the 2011 Amendments to the removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1441, affected the prior precedent on admiralty removal jurisdiction. According to the seminal case, Ryan v. Hercules Offshore, Inc., 945 F.Supp.2d 772 (S.D.Tex. May 13, 2013), the 2011 Amendments struck a clause from Section 1441(b) that prevented general maritime law claims (alone) from being removed as it was an "Act of Congress" that prohibited removal under 1441(a); because Section 1333 also grants jurisdiction to the federal courts over admiralty and maritime matters, then, the Ryan court reasoned that general maritime law claims have become removable.

Enterprise's argument, as discussed above, incorporates the same logic: (1) Section 1441(c) allows removal of claims made non-removable by statute when asserted in conjunction

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with claims falling within the original jurisdiction of this Court (and are therefore removable); (2) Jones Act claims are non-removable by statute; (3) general maritime law claims are removable alone and fall within the original jurisdiction of the federal district court under 28 U.S.C. § 1333; (4) therefore, both the Jones Act claims and the general maritime law claims are removable under 1441(c). This logic depends on the assumption that general maritime law claims are removable. Enterprise, while noting that historically these claims were not removable absent some other source of jurisdiction, agrees with the Ryan court that the 2011 Amendments have now made these claims removable.

Though some district courts have followed Ryan's reasoning, this Court concludes that it is precisely "the statutory grant of admiralty jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1333, and more than 200 years of precedent interpreting this grant"3 rather than the 2011 amendment to the removal statute that determine the removability of Gregoire's claims. In short, general maritime law claims are not now removable—nor have they ever been—without an independent basis of jurisdiction other than 28 U.S.C. § 1333, and defendants may not elude the non-removable nature of Jones Act claims when such claims are asserted in conjunction with general maritime law claims under Section 1441(c).

a. General Maritime Law Claims

i. Historical Underpinnings of Admiralty Jurisdiction

To exercise subject matter jurisdiction over any case, the lower federal court must find that both a Constitutional and statutory basis for jurisdiction exist.4 Article III, section 2, of the United States Constitution grants federal courts jurisdiction over "all cases of admiralty and

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maritime jurisdiction." U.S. Const. art. III, § 2.5 The Article impliedly contained three grants, empowering (i) Congress to confer admiralty and maritime jurisdiction on the tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court, (ii) the federal courts to draw on the substantive law inherent in maritime jurisdiction and continue to develop it, and...

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