NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - A Louisiana federal court has retained jurisdiction in a woman's secondary exposure asbestos lawsuit, arguing it is "perfectly capable" of handling complex questions of state law and denying requests to remand.
Judge Carl J. Barbier, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, filed the April 24 order declining to remand the case to state court.
Plaintiff Sally Gros Vedros, who died from mesothelioma, originally filed the asbestos lawsuit more than four years ago, alleging secondary exposure. After her death, her children joined the suit as plaintiffs.
They allege Alton Gros, Vedros' father, wored at Avondale as a welder from 1943 to 1976. Vedros argued that she spent several years washing her father's work clothes, allegedly resulting in Vedlros' secondary exposure to asbestos.
Vedros, herself, also worked at Avondale from 1960 to 1963 in the purchase department. She alleges her work also directly exposed her to asbestos.
Vedros named numerous defendants in her original lawsuit. Westinghouse, Foster-Wheeler and General Electric removed the case to federal court based on the federal officer defense.
Then in August 2011, the case was transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania as part of the Multidistrict Litigation.
While in the MDL, Vedros' family moved to remand the case to state court, which was denied. The MDL court ruled that federal jurisdiction was satisfied because the requirements of the federal officer removal statute was met.
By February 2013, the case was eventually remanded from the MDL to the Eastern District of Louisiana.
While in this court, Barbier wrote that the parties have undergone extensive discovery, including multiple depositions and expert reports - filing over 300 documents in federal court.
He added that no further discovery will be allowed without express permission of the court.
In addition to the extensive discovery and filed documents, the court has ruled on 18 motions for summary judgment.
Due to the extensive action in the case, Barbier wrote that the case is "ripe for trial."
The court later dismissed all claims against General Electric and Foster-Wheeler, as well as claims against Westinghouse alleging it supplied turbines to Avondale. As a result of their dismissal, the plaintiffs responded by filing an instant motion to remand.
In their motion to remand, the plaintiffs argue federal jurisdiction no longer exists because the claims against the defendants that removed the case have all been dismissed.
They also argue that the court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims because the legal issues in this case, including issues of solidary liability and virile shares, involve complex questions of state law.
However, defendants Amchem, Westinghouse (the remaining claims), the Acondale Interests, Avondale and Continental Insurance Company counter the plaintiffs argument, claiming the court has already expended substantial judicial resources and the case is ripe for trial, the order states.
The defendants also point out that the virile share liability is not a novel or complex issue that requires state court adjudication
Barbier wrote that the general rule provides that where federal claims are dismiss before trial, a federal court should also dismiss pendent state claims. He added that the rule "'is neither absolute nor automatic.'"
Therefore, Barbier explained, the federal court has discretion to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims.
In order for the court to determine whether or not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, it must balance "'judicial economy, convenience, fairness and comity,'" Barbier stated.
Barbier wrote that the there are no novel or complex issues of state law in the case at hand that would require the court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.
"The court is perfectly capable of adjudicating issues involving solidary liability and virile shares," he added.
"Additionally, this case is similar to several other cases where district courts in this circuit have properly exercised supplemental jurisdiction where the matters have been pending in federal court for several years, extensive discovery has occurred and numerous documents have been filed, discovery is closed, the case is ripe for trial, there are no novel or overly complex issues of state law, and the district court has already expended significant judicial resources and decided multiple dispositive motions," Barbier continued.
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