Betzner v. Boeing Co., No. 18-2582 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Betzner filed suit in Madison County, Illinois alleging that during Betzner’s employment, he was exposed to asbestos fibers, which caused his mesothelioma and that defendants, including Boeing, manufactured these products. Boeing filed a notice of removal, alleging that Betzner’s deposition and affidavit show the negligence claims arise from his work in Dallas, where Betzner was involved in the assembly of Boeing B-1 and B-1B Lancer bomber aircraft for the Air Force in 1982-1987. Boeing asserts that the government controlled the design and development of the aircraft and required adherence to its detailed specifications. Betzner did not move for remand or challenge the factual allegations in the notice of removal. The district court, sua sponte, remanded the case concluding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction due to Boeing’s failure to provide evidentiary support for its government contractor defense and explaining it was “not required to take Boeing’s allegations at face value.” The Seventh Circuit reversed. Boeing alleged sufficient facts to support federal officer removal under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a). Boeing’s plausible allegations include that when designing, manufacturing, supplying, testing, and repairing the aircraft it acted as a government contractor under the detailed and ongoing direction and control of the U.S. military, which required adherence to precise specifications. Boeing alleged the aircraft it manufactured conformed to those specifications and the government was independently aware of the potential health hazards related to asbestos exposure.