United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the court are Defendant's Motion to Sever and for
Partial Remand (Doc. 2), Defendant's Motion for Partial
Dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 5), and
Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. 10). For the reasons
stated below, it is ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion to
Remand (Doc. 10) is GRANTED, and Defendant's Motion to
Sever and for Partial Remand (Doc. 2) is DENIED. The case
will be REMANDED to the Circuit Court of Montgomery County,
Alabama, and Defendant's Motion for Partial Dismissal of
Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 5) will remain pending before
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Viscofan USA, Inc. (“Viscofan”) employed
Plaintiff Kawayne Steel as a machine operator in an
industrial facility in Montgomery County, Alabama. On March
23, 2016, Steel cut his left arm as he fed a meat casing onto
a machine, causing significant injuries. According to the
complaint, Viscofan improperly designed, manufactured,
installed, distributed, sold, or assembled this machine,
causing Steel's injuries and resulting in claims pursuant
to the Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine
(“AEMLD”) and for negligence and
wantonness. Steel also brings a workers'
compensation claim against Viscofan.
removed the action on October 6, 2016 on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The
notice of removal alleges that Viscofan is a Delaware
corporation with its principal place of business in Illinois,
while Steel resides in Alabama, and that the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of interest and
costs. Along with the notice of removal, Viscofan filed a
motion (Doc. 2) that asks the court to sever and to remand
Steel's workers' compensation claim, but retain
jurisdiction over his remaining claims. Viscofan also filed a
motion for partial dismissal (Doc. 5) invoking the Alabama
Workers' Compensation Act's exclusivity provisions to
argue that the AEMLD, negligence, and wantonness claims
should be dismissed on the merits. In response, Steel filed a
motion to remand (Doc. 10) arguing for the entire action to
be remanded to state court under 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c).
a court of limited jurisdiction. Only cases that originally
could have been filed in federal court may invoke this
court's jurisdiction through removal from a state court.
E.g., 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Burns v. Windsor
Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994). The
“removing defendant bears the burden of proving proper
federal jurisdiction.” Leonard v. Enter. Rent a
Car, 279 F.3d 967, 972 (11th Cir. 2002) (citing
Williams v. Best Buy Co., Inc., 269 F.3d 1316,
1319-20 (11th Cir. 2001)). In analyzing whether the defendant
has carried that burden, the “removal statutes are
construed narrowly” and “uncertainties are
resolved in favor of remand.” Burns, 31 F.3d
at 1095 (citing Boyer v. Snap-on Tools Corp., 913
F.2d 108 (3rd Cir. 1990); Coker v. Amoco Oil Co.,
709 F.2d 1433 (11th Cir. 1983)).
Remand of Actions Arising Under Alabama Workers'
interplay of the federal removal statutes and the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure determines whether some or all of
this case must be remanded to state court. The parties are in
agreement that some of the case-specifically, Steel's
workers' compensation claim-must be remanded. This is
because 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c) prohibits the removal of a
“civil action in any State court arising under the
workmen's compensation laws of such State.”
Steel's claim, which is set forth in Count One of his
complaint, explicitly invokes the Workers' Compensation
Act of Alabama in seeking all damages for his on-the-job
injury to which the Act entitles him. Doc. 1-1 at 3-4.
Although Steel does not specify the relevant portion of the
Act, Alabama Code § 25-5-31 creates the employee's
right to file a civil action to receive compensation from his
employer when he is injured on the job. See Ala.
Code § 25-5-31 (1975) (“When personal injury or
death is caused to an employee by an accident arising out of
and in the course of his employment . . . [he] shall receive
compensation by way of damages therefor from the
employer.”). The court finds that the private right of
action created by § 25-5-31 is “an integral part
of Alabama's workers' compensation regime.”
Reed v. Heil Co., 206 F.3d 1055, 1060 (11th Cir.
2000) (remanding a retaliatory termination claim because it
arose under § 1445(c)). As a result, Steel's
workers' compensation claim arises under Alabama
workers' compensation law within the meaning of §
1445(c) and is therefore nonremovable. See id.
Steel and Viscofan agree to the remand of the workers'
compensation claim, their positions otherwise diverge.
Viscofan urges the court to sever the AEMLD, negligence, and
wantonness claims from the workers' compensation claim
and to retain jurisdiction over those claims despite
remanding the workers' compensation action to state
court. Doc. 2 at 1-2. Steel objects to this course of action
on two grounds. First, Steel argues that even the AEMLD,
negligence, and wantonness claims arise under Alabama
workers' compensation for purposes of § 1445(c),
thus compelling remand of the entire action. Second, he
argues that there is no basis for severing his properly
joined claims, and the entire case must therefore be
remanded. The court agrees with the second proposition, but
not the first.
attempt to sweep all of his claims into the purview of 28
U.S.C. § 1445(c) depends on overly broad interpretations
of § 1445(c) and the Alabama Workers' Compensation
Act. Specifically, he claims that the Act authorizes him to
proceed with his workers' compensation claim while also
suing a third-party tortfeasor, and therefore any third-party
claim he brings for the same injury arises under Alabama
workers' compensation law and cannot be removed under
§ 1445(c). Doc. 11 at 5-7 (citing Alabama Code §
25-5-11(a) (1975)). The Eleventh Circuit employed a more
nuanced analysis in Reed when faced with the
question of whether a claim for retaliatory discharge
pursuant to Alabama Code § 25-5-11.1 arises under
Alabama workers' compensation law. Reed, 206
F.3d at 1058-61. Categorizing retaliatory discharge as
“a cause of action created by a state legislature for
workers discharged because they file workers'
compensation claims, ” the Eleventh Circuit
distinguished this statutory retaliatory discharge cause of
action from similar common-law causes of action. Id.
at 1059. The court ultimately held that retaliatory discharge
arises under Alabama workers' compensation law for
purposes of § 1445(c), but only upon finding that the
retaliatory discharge statute was “[c]odified together
with the remaining workers' compensation laws” and
“was passed to enhance the efficacy of the overall
workers' compensation system, ” making it an
“integral part” of the overall compensation
scheme. Id. at 1060.
causes of action for negligence and wantonness are precisely
the type of common-law claims distinguished by the
Reed court. These claims-found by the Eleventh
Circuit to be “so different” as to “have
little persuasive force”-included a common-law action
for an employer's intentional injury to its employees.
Id. at 1059-60. Negligence and wantonness claims are
more analogous to this common-law tort than to
Reed's statutory retaliatory discharge claim.
And the court is not persuaded that common-law claims for
negligence and wantonness are subsumed by the workers'
compensation scheme solely because Alabama Code §
25-5-11(a) authorizes an employee to bring those claims while
simultaneously maintaining a claim under the Alabama
Workers' Compensation Act. Most significantly, the
negligence and wantonness doctrines, as creatures of the
common law, existed before and wholly independent from the
Act, and have not been codified in the Act. This court
therefore joins other district courts sitting within the
State of Alabama in finding that common-law tort claims, such
as negligence and wantonness claims, do not arise under the
Alabama Workers' Compensation Act. See Moore v. CNA
Found., 472 F.Supp.2d 1327, 1329 n.* (M.D. Ala. 2007)
(citing Patin v. Allied Signal, Inc., 77 F.3d 782
(5th Cir. 1996), and finding that common-law claims for
outrage, fraud, civil conspiracy, and intentional infliction
of mental anguish against an employer's workers'
compensation insurer do not arise under workers'
compensation law for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c));
Raye v. Employer's Ins. of Wausau, 345 F.Supp.2d
1313, 1316 (S.D. Ala. 2004) (“[C]laims for outrage and
negligence do not trigger application of Section
1445(c).”); see also Payne v. J.B. Hunt Transp.,
Inc., 154 F.Supp.3d 1310, 1315 (M.D. Fla. 2016) (holding
that common-law negligence claims do not implicate §
1445(c) despite statutes that “permit an employee to
bring a traditional common law action in lieu of
proceedings” under the Florida workers'
AEMLD claim likewise does not arise under Alabama
workers' compensation law. Alabama law traditionally
required privity of contract between an injured party and the
manufacturer of the injuring product. See Tuscumbia City
Sch. Sys. v. Pharmacia Corp., 871 F.Supp.2d 1241, 1247
(N.D. Ala. 2012). Although the privity requirement had been
relaxed somewhat over time, in 1976 “the Alabama
Supreme Court formally restated the elements of a
manufacturer's liability claim in two cases decided on
the same day, ” and “thereby christened the
‘extended' manufacturers' liability
doctrine.” Id. (citing Atkins v. Am.
Motors Corp., 335 So.2d 134 (Ala. 1976), and Casrell
v. Altec Indus., Inc., 335 So.2d 128 (Ala. 1976)). The
AEMLD thus has a judicial genesis, not a legislative one, and
certainly not one within the same legislation as the Alabama
Workers' Compensation Act. As with other
“court-created tort remed[ies]” distinguished by
the Eleventh Circuit in Reed, AEMLD claims do not
arise under the Alabama workers' compensation scheme.
Reed, 206 F.3d at 1059; see also Formosa v.
Lowe's Home Ctrs., Inc., 806 F.Supp.2d 1181, 1190
(N.D. Ala. 2011) (remanding workers' compensation claim
as arising under § 1445(c) while severing and retaining
jurisdiction over AEMLD and other tort claims due to the
plaintiff's waiver of procedural removal defects).