Practice Argument on Motion to Remand

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In this video, Jeb Butler talks about a Personal Injury case based on Georgia’s tort law.

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► May it please the court, I’m Jeff Butler, on behalf of the plaintiffs. This is a personal injury case based on Georgia’s tort law. It arises from the negligence of Georgia Power Corporation on the interior of Oliver Dam, and specifically it arises from negligence with regard to lock-out, tag-out procedures, where certain equipment is deactivated or turned off before somebody goes down to work on it and then locked and tagged, so it can’t be turned on accidentally. And my argument today on this motion to remand will go through all the different doctrinal tests and multifactor standards that govern the court’s decision. But at the end of the day, this case, and the resolution of this case, just doesn’t have anything to do with, and doesn’t depend on federal law. And so will ask the court to remand this case to the state court in Muskogee County where we filed it.
► The facts are briefly that Alex Paxton was a commercial diver, and he was doing some work on Oliver Dam. He descended into essentially this hole here that’s shown on the screen behind me. Before he went down into that hole, the evidence will show that Georgia Power should have closed a valve on something called a penstock pipe. Now, we haven’t had opportunity to conduct discovery, so my grasp of the facts is not perfect. But essentially the penstock pipe connects one side of the dam with the other, so when water can go through there, the water goes through really high pressures, and it creates a lot of suction.
► So Georgia Power should have closed it using this valve shown here. Once they closed it, they should have locked it and then put the key or the tag into one of these boxes shown here. These black and white pictures are all that we have right now, unfortunately, but Georgia Power failed to do that. And the consequence of Georgia Power failing to do that was that when Alex Paxon descended on the interior of the dam, his arm got sucked into the hole where that penstock pipe was and he couldn’t escape. He actually asphyxiated. The pressure was such that when he got sucked in, he couldn’t inflate his chest to breathe. So he suffocated of the interior of Oliver Dam. The plaintiff brought this case, bringing state law and only state law claims for negligence and premises liability.
We’ll get into all the doctrinal tests, but the big picture here can be captured with what the United States Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit have said about the purposes of federal jurisdiction in circumstances like this. The reason federal jurisdiction exists is so the federal courts can have uniform rules of decision, so that for commercial shipping, the law doesn’t change as you go from state to state, so that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn’t have to have different regulations for each state. Water release schedules can be done uniformly. Defense contractors like Halliburton, companies that contract with the federal government to provide weapons in Afghanistan don’t have to worry about individual states’ tort law. That’s the reason federal jurisdiction exists in cases like this. And none of that is affected here. There’s nothing about this case or the handling of this case, hypothetically in the state court of Muskogee County, pursuant to Georgia personal injury tort law, that would affect anything the federal government [inaudible 00:03:54] with commercial shipping or defense or water release or anything else.

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