In this federal court case, the plaintiff alleged that he had been exposed to asbestos while he was an employee of Huntington Ingalls, Inc. (previously known as Avondale shipyards) in various positions from 1948 through 1996. The defendants removed the case, claiming the federal court had jurisdiction pursuant to the Federal Officer Removal Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442. The defendants specifically claimed that federal inspectors from military agencies maintained a constant presence at the shipyard during the construction of vessels for the Navy and Coast Guard and had complete control over the materials, including asbestos-containing materials, used during construction. It was also alleged that the federal inspectors maintained the safety regulations to be implemented by Avondale related to this construction. The plaintiff subsequently sought to remand the action back to state court.
The court found that the statute did not attach to the plaintiff’s claims of failure to warn or strict liability and granted the remand. Regarding failure to warn, the court held: “Defendants have failed to present the Court with evidence that the federal government restricted Avondale’s ability to warn its employees of their exposure to asbestos and the related dangers. Defendants’ assertions that federal inspectors associated with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard had a pervasive presence at the work-site, and that they controlled ‘every aspect of the shipbuilding process,’ including safety regulations, are in direct conflict with the evidence in the record.” On the strict liability claims, the court held: “Despite evidence that the federal officers mandated Avondale’s use of the asbestos-containing materials, Defendants have failed to present any evidence that the federal government ‘mandated how Avondale handle these materials.’”
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