Friday, March 24, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Forest Service Ducks Suit Over Fatal Plane Crash

(CN) - An engine maker being sued over a fatal airplane crash cannot pursue claims against the U.S. Forest Service, which had hired the plane, a federal judge ruled.

Sterling Airways pilot Patrick Jessup crashed while attempting to land a model T-210L Cessna at the William T. Piper Memorial Airport in Lock Haven, Pa., on June 21, 2010. The crash killed him as well as his two passengers, aerial surveyors employed by the Forest Service.

Lise Lemeland Jessup sued Teledyne Continental Motors, which was the official certificate holder for the plane's TSIO-520-H engine, as well as several members of the Teledyne corporate family and other companies.

Teledyne then filed a third-party complaint against the Forest Service, and the agency removed the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and then moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

U.S. District Judge Curtis Joyner granted the Forest Service's motion, and refused to let Teledyne amend its claims, remanding the remaining claims to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.

The derivative jurisdiction doctrine requires dismissal of the claims against the Forest Service for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the state court lacked jurisdiction to hear them, according to the ruling.

"The derivative jurisdiction doctrine applies to render this just such a case which a federal defendant may remove but which nonetheless falls outside our statutorily authorized jurisdiction to hear the case after removal," Joyner wrote.

Teledyne failed to show that the presence of "substantial federal issues" gives jurisdiction.

"The Teledyne defendants point to no statutory authorization for the federal courts to hear cases which have some critical mass of federal issues," the 13-page opinion states. "Because the derivative jurisdiction doctrine applies here, we conclude that Congress has not authorized us to hear this case pursuant to § 1442 no matter how many federal issues appear in this case or how substantial they might be."

Teledyne also failed to show that the federal court has diversity jurisdiction over the remaining parties.

"Neither diversity jurisdiction nor any other plausible basis for jurisdiction appears in the only operative notice of removal, the one which the Service filed," Joyner wrote. "Accordingly, we lack subject matter jurisdiction over the remainder of this case in its entirety, and we must remand."

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.