More Maritime Claims Are Removable in Texas Now
Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime lawsuits (i.e. “admiralty jurisdiction”), but these suits typically cannot be removed from state to federal court. However, last month in Ryan v. Hercules Offshore, Inc., 945 F.Supp.2d 772 (S.D. Tex. May 13, 2013), the Southern District of Texas held that new statutory amendments now make such claims removable.
Lawsuits can generally be removed to federal court if the relevant issues “arise under the Constitution, treaties or laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. 1331. Maritime claims, however, do not arise under the laws of the United States and instead arise from court-made law. The federal removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1441, formerly stated that maritime claims could only be removed if none of the defendants “is a citizen of the State in which such action is brought.”
Federal Jurisdiction and Venue Act
In 2011, Congress enacted the Federal Jurisdiction and Venue Act, which amended section 1441. That section now only contains citizenship requirements for removal when the case is being removed pursuant to the district court’s “diversity jurisdiction,” rather than its “admiralty jurisdiction.” Therefore, according to the Southern District of Texas, maritime claims can now be removed to federal court regardless of the citizenship of the parties.
It will be interesting to see if other district courts apply the same interpretation of newly-amended section 1441. If so, this new legislation will greatly increase opportunities for maritime defendants to litigate in federal forums.
Allen & Gooch is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.