Exxon Mobil Corporation v. Starr Indemnity & Liability Insurance Company, et al., 15-cv-01555, S.D. Tex., Dec. 21, 2015

Admiralty cases pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333 are removable without an independent basis from federal court jurisdiction so long as the defendant consents to the Savings to Suitors common law remedy of a jury trial.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, denied the plaintiff’s, Exxon Mobil Corporation, motion to remand the case back to state court where it had originally been filed. The court first looked to whether the District Court had admiralty jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333 and held that it had admiralty jurisdiction based upon the maritime nature of the insurance policies at issue and, more specifically, because maritime commerce was the touchstone of the maritime policies at issue. Having determined that it had admiralty jurisdiction, the court then analyzed the language in 28 U.S.C. § 1441 to determine whether that section, in conjunction with the Savings to Suitors Clause in § 1333, precludes removal. Focusing on the 2011 amendment to the language of 28 U.S.C. § 1441, the court held that this section, as currently phrased, does not preclude the removal of admiralty actions pursuant to § 1332. The court specifically noted that the deletion of the phrase “any other such action” in the 2011 version of § 1441(b), which courts had previously held governed admiralty claims and precluded them from removal, now allows the removal of such admiralty claims. This decision is significant in that the court permitted the removal of an action from state court (the plaintiff’s chosen forum) to federal court (the defendants’ chosen forum) based purely upon admiralty jurisdiction, without an independent basis for federal court jurisdiction, so long as there is consent on the part of the defendants to the remedy preserved by the Savings to Suitors clause (a jury trial).


Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 1, 2016

Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2016 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.