United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
H. Miller Senior Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF REMAND
before the court is plaintiff Todd Michael Belanger's
motion to remand. Dkt. 7. Having considered the motion,
response, and applicable law, the court is of the opinion
that the motion should be GRANTED and this case REMANDED to
the 269th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas.
March 24, 2018, while he worked aboard the M/V Amazon, Todd
Michael Belanger alleges that he tripped over an air hose and
injured his back, requiring surgery. Dkt. 1-2 at 6-7. On
March 20, 2019, Belanger sued his employer McDermott under
the Jones Act and general maritime law for those injuries.
Id. at 6. Belanger filed his action in Texas state
court in the district court of Harris County. Id. at
4. McDermott filed its original answer, as well as a motion
to dismiss, on May 1. Id. at 12. This answer
consisted of a non-waiver statement and notice of intent to
enforce the employment agreement's forum selection
clause, as well as a general denial. Id. at 12-13.
Simultaneously, McDermott filed its notice of removal in
United States District Court for the Southern District of
Texas. Dkt. 1 at 1. Belanger filed a motion to remand on May
28, Dkt. 7 at 1, and McDermott filed its response on June 11.
Dkt. 9 at 1. McDermott argues that the court has removal
jurisdiction over Bellanger's Jones Act claims due to a
forum selection clause contained in Bellanger's
employment agreement. Dkt 1 at 2. This clause states that
“any. . . Dispute shall be litigated before the United
States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. In
the event original jurisdiction in U.S. federal district
court does not exist over the Dispute, the Parties shall
litigate such Dispute in state district court in and for the
County of Harris, State of Texas.” Dkt. 1-1 at 11.
28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) a plaintiff may move for remand on
the basis of defect. The burden is on the removing party to
establish removal jurisdiction. Keen v. Wausau Business
Ins. Co., 875 F.Supp.2d 682, 685 (S.D. Tex. 2012). This
court has previously held that general maritime claims are
not removable because federal district courts “do not
have original jurisdiction under the Savings to Suitors
Clause.” Sanders v. Cambrian Consultants (CC) Am.,
Inc., 132 F.Supp.3d 853, 858 (S.D. Tex. 2015) (citing
Gregoire v. Enter. Marine Servs., 38 F.Supp.3d 749
(E.D. La. 2014)). Jones Act claims are not generally
removable per 28 U.S.C. §1445(a), which is incorporated
into the Jones Act. Sanders, 132 F.Supp.3d at 855
(S.D. Tex. 2015) (citing Lackey v. Atl. Richfield
Co., 990 F.2d 202, 206-07 (5th Circ. 1993)).
the court will determine whether it has removal jurisdiction
over Belanger's general maritime claims, then it will
examine whether it has removal jurisdiction over
Belanger's Jones Act claims.
Belanger's general maritime claims are not
initially sued in state court under the Savings to Suitors
Clause. Dkt. 1-2 at 5-6. He moves to remand, arguing that
such maritime claims are not removable absent an independent
jurisdictional basis. Dkt. 7 at 3. Under this court's
reasoning in Sanders v. Cambrian Consultants, a
maritime claim filed in state court under the Savings to
Suitors Clause is “transformed into a case at law, as
opposed to admiralty.” Sanders, 132 F.Supp.3d
at 858. This court does not have original jurisdiction over
such a case filed in state court because the Savings to
Suitors Clause “provides original jurisdiction over
‘[a]ny civil case of admiralty or maritime
jurisdiction, '” but saves to suitors the choice of
state-law forum. Id.
relies upon this court's previous rulings to argue that
the instant case is removable. Dkt. 9 at 2 (citing Ryan
v. Hercules Offshore, Inc., 945 F.Supp.2d 772 (S.D. Tex.
2013)). However, while this court stated in Sanders
that Ryan “was properly decided on the facts
and arguments presented in that case, ” the plaintiff
in Sanders presented new arguments that led this
court to reconsider its previous holding in Ryan.
Sanders, 132 F.Supp.3d at 857. McDermott
misapprehends Sanders's holding, as well as
Ryan's applicability to this case.
general maritime claims filed in state court under the
Savings to Suitors Clause are not removable to federal
district court absent an independent source of jurisdiction,
Belanger's general maritime claims must be remanded.
Belanger's Jones Act claims are not removable.
also asserts Jones Act claims against McDermott. Dkt 1-2 at
5. Jones Act claims filed in state court are not removable to
federal court. Sanders, 132 F.Supp.3d at 855.
Indeed, “[i]t is axiomatic that Jones Act suits may not
be removed from state court.” Lackey, 990 F.2d
at 206-07. This is because the Jones Act incorporates
“the general provisions” of the Federal Employer
Liability Act (FELA), and 28 USC § 1445(a) bars removal
of FELA claims. Id. at 207. Thus, Jones Act cases
can only be removed if the Jones Act claim was ...