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Ryans v. Houston NFL Holdings, L.P.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

May 2, 2017

DEMECO RYANS, Plaintiff,
v.
HOUSTON NFL HOLDINGS, L.P. d/b/a HOUSTON TEXANS, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Kenneth M. Hoyt United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is the plaintiff's, Demeco Ryans (the “plaintiff”), motion to remand. (Dkt. No.11). In response, Houston NFL Holdings, L.P. dba Houston Texans (“Texans”), SMG, Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation (“Harris”), and Strathayr Turf Systems Pty Ltd (“Strathayr”) (collectively, the “defendants”) filed a response in opposition. (Dkt. No. 20). The plaintiff has filed a reply (Dkt. No. 23), to which the defendants have filed a surreply (Dkt. No. 27). After having carefully considered the motion, the response, the replies, the record and the applicable law, the Court determines that the plaintiff's motion to remand should be GRANTED.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         At all times relevant to this action, the plaintiff was a professional football player for the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the member clubs of the National Football League (“NFL”). On November 2, 2014, the plaintiff played in a football game against the Texans at NRG Stadium (“NRG”) in Houston, Texas. The plaintiff alleges that he suffered a non-contact injury to his Achilles tendon as a result of a dangerous condition on the field at NRG. (Dkt. No. 11 at 7). It is undisputed that the plaintiff sustained the injury on the field while playing in the game. It also undisputed that the plaintiff and the Texans are both bound by the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) governing the terms and conditions of the relationship between the NFL and its players.

         On or around October 21, 2016, the plaintiff filed suit in state court against the defendants. The plaintiff's petition asserts Texas state law tort claims of premises liability against the Texans.[1] The Texans removed the case to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, claiming that all of the plaintiff's claims and causes of action are preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”); asserting that the resolution of the plaintiff's claims would require the interpretation of the CBA. (Dkt. No. 20 at 8). On December 30, 2016, the plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Remand, claiming that the matter should be handled in state court because his claims are not preempted by LMRA.

         III. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

         A. The Plaintiff's Contentions

         The plaintiff moves to remand, asserting that the defendants cannot show that his state law tort claims are completely preempted by the LMRA. The plaintiff alleges that his claims are not dependent on an interpretation of the CBA and are not inextricably intertwined with consideration of the CBA. The plaintiff further argues that his claims are not based on any provision of the CBA nor is the CBA the source of any of his claims. Accordingly, the plaintiff avers that the defendants have failed to meet their burden and this case should be remanded to the state court in which it was originally filed.

         B. The Defendants' Contentions

         The defendants argue that removal was proper because federal question jurisdiction exists making this Court the proper venue to hear this case. The defendants argue that the CBA represents the complete understanding of the parties involved. The defendants assert that player safety on the field of play during the game is among the subjects included in the CBA. The defendants further argue that the CBA addresses compensation to be received by a player should he be injured in circumstances similar to the plaintiff. Thus, the defendants assert that the plaintiff's claims are inextricably intertwined with, necessarily require an interpretation of the CBA and are completely preempted by the LMRA. The defendants ask that the Court thereby deny the plaintiff's motion to remand.

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The applicable statute provides two grounds for remand: (1) a defect in removal procedure; and (2) lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); Things Remembered, Inc. v. Petarca, 516 U.S. 124, 127 - 28, 116 S.Ct. 494, 133 L.Ed.2d 461 (1995). A remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is permissible at any time before final judgment, with or without a motion. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant is permitted to remove an action from a state court to a federal court only if the action is one over which the federal court has original jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. 1441(a). Since federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, absent jurisdiction granted by statute, federal courts lack the power to adjudicate claims. See Stockman v. Federal Election Comm'n, 138 F.3d 144, 151 (5th Cir. 1998) (citing Veldhoen v. United States Coast Guard, 35 F.3d 222, 225 (5th Cir. 1994)). Thus, “[i]t is incumbent on all federal courts to dismiss an action whenever it appears that subject matter jurisdiction is lacking.” Stockman, 138 F.3d at 151. Further, the party seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court carries the burden of ...


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