Speranza v. Leonard
Death on the High Seas Act cases arise in admiralty and are within the competence of state courts to adjudicate. In 2011, the plaintiff's decedent, Robert Speranza, allegedly was on the boat of Stew Leonard Sr. and Thomas Leonard, when he was ejected and died. The plaintiff, who is a citizen of the State of Florida, sued the Leonards, who are citizens of Connecticut and Virginia, as well as a Delaware limited liability company, alleging wrongful death, lack of seaworthiness and negligence. The defendants removed the suit from Connecticut Superior Court to District Court. The defendants argued that the Death on the High Seas Act pre-empted the plaintiff's state-law claims. The plaintiff moved to remand to Connecticut Superior Court. State courts possess concurrent jurisdiction over Death on the High Seas Act cases. These actions arise in admiralty and are clearly within the competence of state courts to adjudicate, pursuant to Offshore Logistics v. Tallentire, a 1986 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. "[A] defendant may not remove a maritime action seeking a state-law remedy even if the plaintiff could have brought the action in federal court on the basis of admiralty jurisdiction," pursuant to Port Authority of New York and New Jersey v. Am. Stevedoring, a 2010 decision of the Eastern District of New York. Admiralty claims are separate from federal questions and do not fall within the ambit of federal question jurisdiction, pursuant to Romero v. International Terminal Operating Co., a 1959 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The plaintiff's admiralty claims are not removable to District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1441(a) as a result of federal-question jurisdiction. Section 1441(b)(2) bars removal, based on diversity of citizenship, because defendant Stew Leonard Sr. is a Connecticut resident. The statute provides, "A civil action otherwise removable solely on the basis of [diversity] jurisdiction under section 1332(a) . . . may not be removed if any of the parties in interest properly joined and served as defendants is a citizen of the State in which such action is brought." The District Court granted the motion to remand to Connecticut Superior Court.