Savoie v. Huntington Ingalls, Inc.,, No. 15-30514 (5th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Joseph Savoie was employed at the Avondale Shipyard between 1948-1996. The Avondale Shipyard fulfilled contracts from the federal government. The specifications for Navy and Coast Guard vessels required asbestos insulation through at least 1968. After Savoie contracted mesothelioma, he filed numerous negligence and strict liability claims. Plaintiffs in this case are Joseph's survivors. At issue is whether strict liability claims based on the existence of asbestos at the shipyard give rise to federal jurisdiction under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442. The Savoies’ negligence claims challenge discretionary acts of the shipyard free of federal interference. As a result, the government’s directions to the shipyard via the contract specifications did not cause the alleged negligence, and those claims do not support removal. In regard to plaintiffs' strict liability claims, under Louisiana law, there is a causal relationship between the government's requirements that the shipyard use asbestos in constructing its Navy and Coast Guard vessels and Savoie’s asbestos exposure while working on those same vessels. Therefore, the district court erred in finding that this nexus requirement was not satisfied. Because the district court never had the opportunity to consider whether the defenses are colorable, the court remanded to allow the district court to do so in the first instance.