Wood v. Am. Crescent Elevator Corp., CIVIL ACTION NO: 11-397

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
Writing for the CourtJAY C. ZAINEY
Decision Date13 May 2011
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO: 11-397




May 13, 2011.


Before the Court is a Motion to Remand (Rec. Doc. 9) filed by Plaintiffs, Thomas Wood and Sharon Wood ("Plaintiffs"). Defendants, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., Jacobs Technology Inc. (collectively "Jacobs"), and American Crescent Elevator Corporation ("American Cresent"), oppose the motion. The motion, set for hearing on April 13, 2011, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.


This case concerns an injury on an elevator shaft at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility ("Michoud Facility") in New Orleans East. On January 14, 2010, Plaintiff Thomas Wood, an employee of Total Technical Services, Inc., was retained to repair an elevator at the Michoud Facility. (Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. to Remand 1.) While trying to take pictures of the elevator, Mr. Wood fell into the elevator pit and sustained injuries. (Id. at 2.) Mr. Wood alleges that American Crescent also was on site attempting to repair the elevator and had raised the elevator car beyond the floor where Mr. Wood was working without warning. (Id. at 1-2.) According to Plaintiffs, Jacobs was responsible for maintaining the Michoud Facility. (Id. at 2.) On December 14, 2010, Plaintiffs

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filed suit against Jacobs and American Crescent in state court for failure to maintain a safe elevator and failure to warn Mr. Wood of the elevator's dangerous condition. (Id.)On February 16, 2011, Jacobs, with the consent of American Crescent, removed the case to federal court pursuant to federal enclave jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Id.)

Plaintiffs filed the instant motion to remand, arguing that the Court lacks federal enclave jurisdiction because the Michoud Facility is not a federal enclave. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff contends that the Michoud Facility is not a federal enclave because it is not a military base and is managed by Jacobs, a private, for profit, corporate entity. (Id.) Even if the Court finds that the Michoud Facility is a federal enclave, Plaintiffs state that the case should be remanded back to state court because state courts have concurrent jurisdiction over federal enclaves. (Id. at 5-6.) Defendants oppose the motion, arguing that removal is appropriate because the Michoud Facility qualifies as a federal enclave given that the federal government condemned the property where the Michoud Facility is located, and the Louisiana state legislature consented to the federal government's exclusive jurisdiction over the property. (Jacobs' Mem Opp'n to Mot. to Remand 4; American Crescent's Mem Opp'n to Mot. to Remand 2.) Defendants also assert that the exercise of federal jurisdiction is not affected by concurrent jurisdiction in state courts. (Jacobs' Mem Opp'n to Mot. to Remand 5; American Crescent's Mem Opp'n to Mot. to Remand 2-3.)

On April 14, 2011, the Court reviewed the parties memoranda on the motion to remand and found that it was unclear whether the United States had accepted federal jurisdiction over the Michoud Facility pursuant to 40 U.S.C. § 3112(b). (Rec. Doc. 18.) As a result, the Court ordered Defendants to submit additional evidence demonstrating that the United States had accepted federal jurisdiction over the Michoud Facility. (Id.) In response to the Court's order, Defendants submitted

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additional briefing to the Court purporting to demonstrate that the federal government had accepted jurisdiction over the Michoud Facility pursuant to 40 U.S.C. § 3112(b) in a manner prescribed by Louisiana law. In light of the additional briefing, the Court now rules on the instant motion.


Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant may remove an action from state court to federal court if the federal court can exercise subject matter jurisdiction over the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) (2006). It is well-established that the party invoking the jurisdiction of a federal court has the burden of proving that the exercise of such jurisdiction is proper. In re North American Philips Corp., No. 91-3106, 1991 WL 40259, at *2 (5th Cir. 1991). "Under the well pleaded complaint rule... a movant may not remove a case to federal court unless the plaintiff s complaint establishes that the cause of action arises under federal law." Frank v. Bear Stearns & Co., 128 F.3d 919, 922 (5th Cir. 1997). Any doubt regarding whether removal jurisdiction is proper should be resolved against federal jurisdiction and in favor of remand. Acuna v. Brown & Root, Inc., 200 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Willy v. Coastal Corp., 855 F.2d 1160, 1164 (5th Cir.1988)).

In the instant case, the parties dispute whether the Michoud Facility qualifies as a federal enclave. "Federal enclave jurisdiction is a subspecies of federal question jurisdiction, which is a form of subject matter jurisdiction vested in federal district courts by 28 U.S.C. § 1331." Lawler v. Miratek Corp., No. 09-252, 2010 WL 743925, at *2 (W.D. Tex. Mar. 2, 2010). Federal enclave jurisdiction derives from article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution, whereby Congress is vested with the power "[t]o exercise exclusive legislation in all Cases whatsoever... by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress... and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be,

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for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, Dock-Yards, and other needful buildings." U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 17. Such places have been identified as federal enclaves within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States. Akin v. Ashland Chem. Co., 156 F.3d 1030, 1034 (10th Cir. 1998). Because Congress has been granted exclusive legislative power over federal enclaves, federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction over actions that arise on federal enclaves. Matter v. Holley, 200 F.2d 123, 124-25 (5th Cir. 1953) ("It would be incongruous to hold that although the United States has exclusive sovereignty in the area here involved, its courts are without power to adjudicate controversies arising there."). In Matter v. Holley, the Fifth Circuit specifically found that federal subject matter jurisdiction existed over personal injury actions occurring on federal enclaves. Id.

In order for federal enclave jurisdiction to exist, (1) the United States must purchase land from a state for the purpose of erecting forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, or other needful buildings, (2) the state legislature must consent to the jurisdiction of the federal government, Paul v. United States, 371 U.S. 245, 264 (1963), and (3) if the property was acquired after 1940, the federal government must accept jurisdiction "by filing a notice of acceptance with the Governor of the State or in another manner prescribed by the laws of the State where the land is situated." 40 U.S.C. § 3112(b) (2006); see also Paul, 371 U.S. at 264-65 (noting that since 1940 Congress has required the United States to assent to the transfer of jurisdiction over property); Dekalb Cnty., Georgia v. Henry C. Beck Co., 382 F.2d 992, 994-95 (5th Cir. 1967) (holding that the United States must take some affirmative action pursuant to state law to accept jurisdiction over federal enclaves). The Court now will examine whether Defendants have satisfied the three prong test for federal enclave jurisdiction.

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A. United States Purchase of the Michoud Facility

Under the first prong of the federal enclave jurisdiction test, Defendants must show that the United States purchased the Michoud Facility from the State of Louisiana for one of the designated purposes listed in the Federal Enclave Clause. 42 U.S.C. § 3112(b); Paul, 371 U.S. at 264. The phrase "other needful buildings" listed in the Federal Enclave Clause has been construed by the Supreme Court to include "whatever structures are found to be necessary in the performance of the federal government." James v. Dravo Contracting Co., 302 U.S. 134, 143 (1937). In addition, several courts specifically have found that NASA facilities qualify as "other needful buildings." In J & L Management Corp. v. New Era Builders, Inc., the court examined whether the NASA Glenn Research Center qualified as a federal enclave. J & L Mgmt. Corp. v. New Era Builders, Inc., No. 09-531, 2009 WL 1707886, at *1 (N.D. Ohio June 17, 2009). The court determined that the NASA Glenn Research Center was a federal enclave pursuant to the "other needful buildings" provision of the Federal Enclave Clause. Id. at *4. Also, in Powell v. Tessada & Associates, Inc., the plaintiffs filed suit against their employer alleging employment discrimination. Powell v. Tessada & Assocs. Inc., No. 04-5254, 2005 WL 578103, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 10, 2005). The defendant employer had contracted to provide janitorial services at the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield. Id. The plaintiffs disputed that Moffett Field was a federal enclave because it no longer served as a military base and was taken over by NASA Ames. Id. The court rejected the plaintiffs' argument because the United States owned the NASA facility and operated it as an airfield. Id. at *2.

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