NEEDREPLACE, Case No. 13–80929–CIV.

CourtNew York District Court
Writing for the CourtKENNETH L. RYSKAMP
Citation7 F.Supp.3d 1253
PartiesRichard COTROMANO, Bethany Cotromano, on behalf of Elizabeth Cotromano, their minor daughter, Plaintiffs, v. UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION, Pratt & Whitney Group, a Connecticut corporation, and Palm Beach Aggregates, LLC, a Florida corporation, Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 13–80929–CIV.
Decision Date24 March 2014

7 F.Supp.3d 1253

Richard COTROMANO, Bethany Cotromano, on behalf of Elizabeth Cotromano, their minor daughter, Plaintiffs,
UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION, Pratt & Whitney Group, a Connecticut corporation, and Palm Beach Aggregates, LLC, a Florida corporation, Defendants.

Case No. 13–80929–CIV.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida.

Signed March 24, 2014

Motions denied.

[7 F.Supp.3d 1254]

John Scarola, Mara Ritchie Poncy Hatfield, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, P.A., West Palm Beach, FL, for Plaintiffs.

Fabienne Elizabeth Fahnestock, Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, FL, Gerard Joseph Curley, Jr., Gregor J. Schwinghammer, Jr., Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, P.A., West Palm Beach, FL, Stephen James Rapp, Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial, LLC, Atlanta, GA, for Defendants.


KENNETH L. RYSKAMP, District Judge.

THIS CAUSE comes before the Court pursuant to Plaintiffs Richard and Bethany Cotromano's (“Plaintiffs”) motion to remand, filed October 11, 2013 [DE 17].

[7 F.Supp.3d 1255]

Defendant Palm Beach Aggregates, LLC (“Aggregates”) responded on October 28, 2013 [DE 26], and Defendant Pratt & Whitney Group (“Pratt & Whitney”) responded on October 31, 2013 [DE 29]. Plaintiffs replied on November 12, 2013 [DE 35]. The Court held a hearing on the motion to remand on January 16, 2014. On January 23, 2014 [DE 51], Plaintiffs filed a motion to withdraw. Aggregates and Pratt & Whitney responded thereto on February 10, 2014 [DE 52, 53]. Plaintiffs replied on February 21, 2014 [DE 55]. These motions are ripe for adjudication.


Plaintiffs are residents of the Acreage. In May of 2004, Bethany Cotromano noticed that her six month old daughter, Elizabeth Grace, seemed to be moving her eyes involuntarily. Testing revealed an inoperable optic nerve glioma located in the optic chiasm. Elizabeth Grace underwent chemotherapy for the purpose of stabilizing the tumor and is now legally blind. Plaintiffs allege that the tumor was caused by exposure to contamination within the Acreage, particularly ionizing radiation.

On August 16, 2013, Plaintiffs filed an action in the Circuit Court of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Florida, captioned Richard and Bethany Cotromano v. United Technologies Corporation, Pratt & Whitney Group, and Palm Beach Aggregates, LLC, Case No.2013CA012960 AE. The complaint contains claims for negligence against Pratt & Whitney, negligence against Aggregates, trespass against Pratt & Whitney and Aggregates, Fl. Stat. Ch. 376 liability against Pratt & Whitney and Aggregates and strict liability against Pratt & Whitney and Aggregates. Pratt & Whitney and Aggregates each received a copy of the complaint on August 16, 2013. Pratt & Whitney removed the action to this Court on September 12, 2013 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, citing both federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction in its notice of removal.1 Plaintiffs move to remand.


Removal of an action is appropriate within 30 days of service of the complaint if the allegations establish that the case is removable. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). “The presence or absence of federal question jurisdiction is governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint rule,’ which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392, 107 S.Ct. 2425, 96 L.Ed.2d 318 (1987). The existence of a federal question in a state cause of action does not automatically confer federal question jurisdiction; instead, to support removal, the complaint must substantially involve a dispute over the validity, effect, or construction of federal law. Dunlap v. G & L Holding Grp., Inc., 381 F.3d 1285, 1290 (11th Cir.2004). Vague allegations or inferences in the complaint are insufficient to warrant removal. Greater Jacksonville Transp. Co. v. Jacksonville Port Authority, 12 F.Supp.2d 1311, 1314 (M.D.Fla.1998).

If the case is not initially removable based on the allegations of the complaint, it may later be removed within 30 days of receipt of a pleading, motion, or other paper from which it can first be ascertained that the case is removable. 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). The facts supporting removal must be stated unequivocally in the pleading, motion, or other paper.

[7 F.Supp.3d 1256]

Pretka v. Kolter City Plaza II, Inc., 608 F.3d 744, 760 (11th Cir.2010).

A. The Atomic Energy Act confers federal jurisdiction.

The Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended by the Price–Anderson Amendments Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. § 2011 et seq. (the “Price–Anderson Act”), gives federal courts jurisdiction over tort actions arising from certain nuclear materials as defined in the statute. The statute expressly provides for removal of such actions brought in state court even when they assert only state-law claims:

[T]he Price–Anderson Act transforms into a federal action “any public liability action arising out of or resulting from a nuclear incident,” § 2210(n)(2). The Act not only gives a district court original jurisdiction over such a claim, but provides for removal to a federal court as of right if a putative Price–Anderson action is brought in a state court. Congress thus expressed an unmistakable preference for a federal forum, at the behest of the defending party, both for litigating a Price–Anderson claim on the merits and for determining whether a claim falls under Price–Anderson when removal is contested.

El Paso Natural Gas Co. v. Neztsosie, 526 U.S. 473, 484–85, 119 S.Ct. 1430, 143 L.Ed.2d 635 (1999) (internal citations omitted). The Eleventh Circuit has held that federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over actions arising under the Price–Anderson Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 2210(n)(2); see Hand v. Cargill Fertilizer, Inc., 157 Fed.Appx. 230, 233 (11th Cir.2005) (affirming removal of wrongful death action from Florida state court to the federal court.); see also Roberts v. Florida Power & Light Co., 146 F.3d 1305, 1308 (11th Cir.1998) (“[F]ederal safety regulations conclusively establish the duty of care owed in a public liability action” involving nuclear technology.)

The Price–Anderson Act provides, in pertinent part:

With respect to any public liability action arising out of or resulting from a nuclear incident, the United States district court in the district where the nuclear incident takes place, or in the case of a nuclear incident taking place outside the United States, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, shall have original jurisdiction without regard to the citizenship of any party...

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