Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Barry v. Shell Oil Co.

United States District Court, D. Alaska

October 5, 2016

BLANE BARRY, Plaintiff,
v.
SHELL OIL COMPANY, ARCTIA OFFSHORE, LTD., SHELL OFFSHORE, INC., and SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION [RE: MOTION AT DOCKET 78]

          JOHN W. SEDWICK SENIOR JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         I. MOTION PRESENTED

         At docket 78, Plaintiff Blane Barry (“Plaintiff”) filed a partial motion to dismiss without prejudice, requesting that the court allow the voluntary dismissal of Defendant Safety Management Systems, LLC (“SMS”). Defendants Shell Oil Company (“Shell”), Shell Offshore, Inc. (“Shell Offshore”), and Arctia Offshore, Ltd. (“Arctia”; collectively referred to as “Opposing Defendants”) oppose the motion at docket 82. SMS did not file an opposition. Plaintiff replies at docket 85. Oral argument was not requested and would not be of assistance to the court.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On August 17, 2012, Plaintiff was a crew member aboard the MSV NORDICA, which was in navigable waters in Alaska, when he sustained serious injuries while lifting heavy cables on the vessel. He thereafter filed a series of lawsuits seeking damages. In December 2012 he filed a negligence claim in Harris County, Texas, against Shell and Arctia, but he later voluntarily dismissed the suit after Arctia challenged the court's personal jurisdiction over it. Plaintiff then filed suit in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, naming Shell, Shell Offshore, Arctia, and SMS as defendants. After the defendants successfully challenged venue, the case was transferred to East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. Arctia was later dismissed from the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. The state court action is currently pending, but only against Shell, Shell Offshore, and SMS.

         Plaintiff filed the current action in federal court on July 20, 2015, against Shell and Arctia. The complaint specifically premised the court's jurisdiction on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The complaint contained claims against Shell and Arctia for negligence, negligence per se, and unseaworthiness “under the general maritime law of the United States.” On August 10, 2015, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint that adds Shell Offshore and SMS as defendants to the action.

         Shell, Shell Offshore, and Arctia subsequently filed a motion to strike Plaintiff's request for a jury trial. They argued that the addition of SMS to the action destroyed complete diversity of the parties because both Plaintiff and SMS are citizens of Louisiana. Without complete diversity, the only basis for the court's subject matter jurisdiction is based on admiralty pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333, and there is no right to a jury trial in admiralty cases. In addition to opposing the motion on the merits, Plaintiff indicated in his response that he intended to file a motion to dismiss SMS without prejudice to remedy the complete diversity problem. The court granted the motion to strike the request for a jury trial. It concluded that because Plaintiff had not yet dismissed SMS from the action, the only basis for the court's jurisdiction was admiralty. Consequently, under admiralty law, Plaintiff was not entitled to a jury trial.

         Plaintiff now requests that the court dismiss SMS from the action pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. SMS, however, did not file an opposition.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Since all the defendants have answered Plaintiff's complaint and the parties have not filed a stipulation of dismissal, Plaintiff's motion to dismiss SMS from this action is governed by Rule 41(a)(2). Under Rule 41(a)(2) dismissal at the plaintiff's request requires court approval.[1] The court “should grant a motion for voluntary dismissal under Rule 41(a)(2) unless a defendant can show that it will suffer some plain legal prejudice as a result.”[2] Legal prejudice does not result merely because a defendant will incur expenses in defending the litigation or would be inconvenienced by a second lawsuit. Legal prejudice does not result because the plaintiff would gain a tactical advantage or because the dismissal would cause uncertainty as to the resolution of the case.[3] Rather, to establish legal prejudice, the defendant must show “prejudice to some legal interest, some legal claim, [or] some legal argument” or must show that the burdens resulting from the dismissal are extreme or unreasonable.[4]

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Opposing Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Rule 41(a)(2) request should be denied for four reasons: (1) this court is the only forum that has the necessary jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiff's claims against all the parties allegedly responsible for Plaintiff's accident; (2) Plaintiff has engaged in procedural maneuvering; (3) SMS will remain a party in this action as a result of the cross-claim that Arctia asserted against it; and (4) SMS is a required party under Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court will address each of the four arguments in turn.

         First, the Opposing Defendants focus on the potential burdens associated with concurrent litigation. They argue that this court is the only forum that has the jurisdiction to adjudicate claims against all the parties allegedly responsible for Plaintiff's accident. They assert that the concurrent litigation will waste time, money, and judicial resources. However, the court's ruling on Plaintiff's motion to dismiss SMS will not change the fact that there will be concurrent litigation because a state court case against Shell, Shell Offshore, and SMS is already pending. Nonetheless, the Opposing Defendants do not want SMS to be dismissed from Plaintiff's complaint because that would foreclose the opportunity to litigate the case against all potential tortfeasors in one forum. While courts and parties prefer to avoid duplicative litigation when possible, there is nothing inherently prejudicial or improper about parallel litigation.[5] A plaintiff is free to simultaneously pursue claims in federal and state court.[6] Furthermore, the issue of whether the court's jurisdiction is proper and convenient is a distinct and separate issue from voluntary dismissal under Rule 41(a)(2).[7] The court also notes that SMS has reserved the defenses of improper forum and lack of personal jurisdiction in its answer to Plaintiff's complaint and Arctia's counterclaim and did not file an opposition to Plaintiff's request for dismissal of his claims against it in federal court, which belies Opposing Defendants' argument that this forum undisputedly is the preferred forum for all Defendants.

         Opposing Defendants contend that concurrent litigation also raises the possibility of inconsistent factual determinations. However, as noted by the Ninth Circuit, uncertainty resulting from a dispute remaining unresolved or uncertainty resulting from future litigation is not adequate legal prejudice to warrant denial of a Plaintiff's request to dismiss.[8] The Opposing Defendants have ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.