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Abbott v. The Boeing Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 31, 2015



ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This case centers on Plaintiff Ronald P. Abbott and his alleged exposure to asbestos through the negligence of his former employer, U.S. Airways, Inc. ("US Airways"), and other businesses that allegedly manufactured, sold, supplied and/or used asbestos-containing products and the loss of consortium allegedly suffered by his wife, Plaintiff Mary L. Abbott. Doc. No. 1-8. Plaintiffs also advance claims against insurance provider, Metropolitan Life. Id . Plaintiffs initiated their lawsuit by filing a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on February 2, 2015. Id.

On March 9, 2015, Defendant U.S. Airways filed a Notice of Removal from the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, case number Gd15-1794, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1334, 1446, and 1452. Doc. No. 1. U.S. Airways' Notice indicated that the nine co-Defendants, who had been served and/or appeared in this action at that time, had provided written consent to the removal of Plaintiffs' lawsuit. Doc. No. 1, ¶ 11. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Abstain and Remand on March 17, 2015, alleging that removal was not proper. Doc. No. 13. The Court held a Status Conference on March 19, 2015. Doc. No. 23. As ordered, Counsel for the Parties were either personally present at the conference, or participated via telephone. Id . During this hearing, Counsel presented brief argument on the appropriateness of subject-matter jurisdiction in this District Court. Id . Following consultation outside of the Court's presence, all Defendants, except for U.S. Airways, orally withdrew their participation in the Notice of Removal and consented to the remand of this matter to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Id.

Since that time, U.S. Airways has filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand and Plaintiffs have replied to this Response. Doc. Nos. 26 and 27. Therefore, the matter is fully ripe and ready for disposition. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion to Abstain and Remand (Doc. No. 13) will be GRANTED, to the extent that Plaintiffs move this Court to find that it lacks federal jurisdiction.

II. Standard of Review

Federal courts are presumed not to have jurisdiction unless it is affirmatively established by the record. DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 342 n. 3, (2006). Because federal district courts have limited jurisdiction, the removal statutes are strictly construed against removal. Batoff v. State Farm Ins. Co., 977 F.2d 848, 851 (3d Cir. 1974); Abels v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 770 F.2d 26, 29 (3d Cir. 1985); Steel Valley Author. v. Union Switch and Signal Div., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010 n. 6 (3d Cir. 1987). All doubts as to substantive and procedural jurisdiction prerequisites must be resolved in favor of remand. Abels, 770 F.2d at 29. The removing Defendant bears the heavy burden of persuading the Court, to which the state action was removed, that it has jurisdiction under the removal statutes. Batoff, 977 F.2d at 851; Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1085 (1991).

III. Discussion

US Airways removed this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1334 and contends that Plaintiffs' lawsuit is a core bankruptcy proceeding or is related to its 2002 bankruptcy and, as such, the Court is an appropriate forum to preside over the dispute. Doc. No. 1. Plaintiffs' claims center on Ronald Abbott's employment by U.S. Airways from 1964 to 2000 (with a two-year gap) at Pittsburgh International Airport and are premised on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case of Tooey v. AK Steel Corp., 81 A.3d 851 (Pa. 2013). Doc. No. 1-8, ¶ 20. There is no dispute that U.S. Airways entered into bankruptcy in 2002 and that bankruptcy closed on December 12, 2005. Doc. No. 1, ¶ 3, Doc. No. 13, ¶ 4. Plaintiffs move this Court to affect a return to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County by: (1) finding that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction; (2) abstaining from hearing the matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1334(c)(2) if the Court finds there is jurisdiction; or (3) finding that U.S. Airways' Notice of Removal is fatally defective because U.S. Airways did not file a Rule 7.1 Corporate Disclosure Statement. Doc. Nos. 13 and 25. The Court will first address whether there is appropriate subject-matter jurisdiction, because it is a dispositive issue.

28 U.S.C. § 1334(b) provides that District Courts shall have "original but not exclusive jurisdiction of all civil proceedings arising under title 11, or arising in or related to cases under title 11." Id. at (a)-(b). U.S. Airways contends that Plaintiffs' claims arise under or in title 11 and/or are related to its bankruptcy proceedings and related orders from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Doc. No. 26. As previously noted, U.S. Airways bears the burden of proving federal jurisdiction, and if there is any doubt as to whether federal jurisdiction exists, the Court should appropriately remand this matter. Boyer, 913 F.2d at 111.

The Parties fundamentally disagree whether, and in what respect, Plaintiffs' claims implicate U.S. Airways' bankruptcy, in part because they dispute when the claims accrued. The following timeline is relevant to this matter:

• Ronald Abbott was employed by U.S. Airways from 1964 to 1969 and then from 1971 to 2000;
• U.S. Airways entered into bankruptcy in 2002;
• Bankruptcy closed on December 12, ...

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