The Macondo well, which was being drilled by the mobile offshore drilling rig DEEPWATER HORIZON, experienced a catastrophic blowout and explosion in April 2010 and caused hydrocarbon, mineral, and other contaminant pollution all along the shores and estuaries of the Gulf Coast states, inflicting billions of dollars in property and environmental damage and spawning a litigation frenzy. Among the thousands of cases transferred for consolidated management by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to the Eastern District of Louisiana were the Parishes’ lawsuits, some of which had been removed from state court. The district court handled cases filed by government entities, like the Parishes, in various groups according to their common issues. Considering first the remand motions filed by three of these Parishes, the court upheld its removal jurisdiction notwithstanding that the cases alleged only penalties accruing under state law for pollution damage that occurred in state waters or along the coastline. The court predicated federal court jurisdiction on 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1)(A). See In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mex., on April 20, 2010 (In re: Oil Spill), 747 F. Supp. 2d 704, 708-09 (E.D. La. 2010). Next, considering various defendants’ Motions to Dismiss the “B1” pleading bundle cases, filed for private or “non-governmental economic loss and property damages,” the district court held that admiralty jurisdiction was present because the alleged tort occurred upon navigable waters and disrupted maritime commerce, and the operations of the DEEPWATER HORIZON, the vessel, bore a substantial relationship to maritime activity. In re: Oil Spill, 808 F. Supp. 2d 943, 951 (E.D. La. 2011). The district court also held that state law was preempted by maritime law. Id. at 953-55. In a subsequent order concerning the “C” pleading bundle cases, brought by the states of Alabama and Louisiana, the court drew from its decision concerning the “B1” pleading bundle to hold that the states’ wildlife actions are preempted by federal law. See In re: Oil Spill, MDL No. 2179, 2011 WL 5520295, at *3, 8 (E.D. La. Nov. 14, 2011). Finally, when considering the Local Government Entity Master Complaint and certain other cases within pleading bundle “C,” the district court held, inter alia, that because the Parishes only asserted state law claims, which the district court already deemed preempted, the cases failed to state claims upon which relief could be granted and must be dismissed. In re: Oil Spill, 835 F. Supp. 2d 175, 179-80 (E.D. La. 2011).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
“The district court’s denial of the motion to remand, the propriety of removal under the various governing statutes, and the existence of subject-matter jurisdiction here are all interrelated questions of law subject to de novo review.” Oviedo v. Hallbauer, 655 F.3d 419, 422 (5th Cir. 2011) (emphasis added). Further, “[w]e review the district court’s grant of summary judgment on preemption grounds de novo.” O’Hara v. Gen. Motors Corp., 508 F.3d 753, 757 (5th Cir. 2007).
Judge(s): Edith H. Jones
Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
Related Categories: Conflict of Laws , Environmental
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