Federal judge sends whistleblower case back to civil court

By Charmaine Little | May 9, 2019

NEW ORLEANS – Judge Lance M. Africk of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana remanded a whistleblower case back to state court on April 22.

Bruce Branden Jr. filed the case as well as the motion to remand with the current court. He originally sued in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans against F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen, Inc., F.H. Paschen’s subsidiary, FHP Tectonics Corp. and David Flores, Leo Wright and George Patterson as well as an insurance company that was not named. Branden was an employee of F.H. Paschen or FHP. Flores was his boss and Wright was Flores’ boss while Patterson was the Director of Property Management for the City of New Orleans.

In his lawsuit, Branden said he suffered violations of Louisiana’s whistleblower law, violations of F.H. Paschen regulations and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendants removed the case to the current court, stating that Flores and Patterson live in Louisiana, which cancels out the diversity of citizenship. At the same time, they said Flores and Patterson were not joined properly and should not even be considered when it comes to establishing diversity jurisdiction. Branden challenged it and filed the motion to remand the case, and the court agreed.

It dismissed the defendants’ challenge that Branden didn’t properly state a claim concerning an infliction of severe emotional distress and pointed out that Flores actually threatened Branden. “Flores’s threats were intended to inflict severe emotional distress – for the purpose of ensuring that Branden would not interfere with the defendants’ alleged scheme or cooperate with investigators,” said the court. Ultimately, Branden was able to prove his claim of an intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Judge Lance M. Africk  

“Because the defendants have not demonstrated that there is no possibility of recovery against Flores, who is a non-diverse defendant, the court finds that he has not been improperly joined,” added the court. Considering this, the citizenship for the parties are not diverse, and the federal court does not have jurisdiction. It remanded the case back to the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana.

Branden claimed he saw illegal activity concerning Patterson and subcontractors. He said Patterson instructed F.H. Paschen to hire subcontractors at a specific price, and workers, possibly Patterson, would get an illegal profit from it. Branden told Flores about what he allegedly witnessed and Patterson allegedly threatened Branden saying he knew how to make people “disappear,” because he had “done it before,” according to the lawsuit. 

Branden then said he received threats from Flores regarding his life and his job. Patterson was later fired and Branden expressed his concerns again with Flores. Branden was fired roughly two weeks later. He then filed a lawsuit saying he suffered “deliberate and repeated harassment” for months.

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Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

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