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Alfred v. Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Dolphin Scaffolding Services

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 21, 2014



JOHN W. deGRAVELLES, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant Anadarko Petroleum Corporation's (hereinafter "Anadarko") Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 28.) Plaintiff filed an Opposition (Doc. 33.) and Anadarko filed a Reply. (Doc. 41.) A Pre-Trial Conference was held on November 13, 2014, at which Anadarko's Motion was discussed.

Accordingly, and for the reasons articulated below, Anadarko's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. Background

In his Complaint, Plaintiff Zachery Alfred alleges he was injured on December 2, 2012 when he fell from scaffolding while working aboard the Marco Polo platform. (Doc. 1, ¶ IV.) Plaintiff alleges he was an employee of Omni Energy Services (hereinafter "Omni") (Doc. 1, ¶ IV), working atop scaffolding built by Defendant Dolphin Scaffolding Services, L.L.C. (hereinafter "Dolphin") when he slipped and fell. (Doc. 1, ¶ IV). The Marco Polo structure where the accident occurred is owned by Anadarko. (Doc. 28, p. 1.)

Evidence in the record establishes that the Marco Polo is a tension Leg platform located in Green Canyon Block 608 and is embedded in the subsoil and seabed by eight 28-inch diameter tendons with a 1.2 inch wall thickness. (Doc. 47-1, p. 1.)[1] The tendons are secured to the seabed by piles measuring 390 feet with a 76 inch diameter. (Doc. 47-1, p. 1.) The Marco Polo has no system of self-propulsion, no lateral mooring system, no raked bow, and is not intended to be towed or moved from place to place. (Doc. 47-1, p. 1.) It has been affixed to the subsoil of Green Canyon Block 608 since 2004. (Doc. 47-1, p. 1.) The Marco Polo is located approximately 160 miles from the coast of Louisiana, south of New Orleans, on the Outer Continental Shelf. (Doc. 47-1, p. 1.) It has several active wellheads and was attached to the subsoil and seabed to explore for, develop and produce natural resources, including oil and natural gas. (Doc. 47-1, p. 1.)

II. Arguments of Parties

In its Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 28), Anadarko argues that it committed no wrong that contributed to Plaintiff's accident and that its only connection to this case is that it owned the platform on which the injury occurred. (Doc. 28, p. 1.) Anadarko argues that it entered into separate Master Service Contracts (hereinafter, "MSCs") with both Dolphin and Omni under which Dolphin and Omni were independent contractors responsible for performing their work in a safe manner and under which Anadarko had no control over Dolphin or Omni. (Doc. 28-1, p. 1, 5 & 6.)

Anadarko argues that a principal is not liable for the negligent acts of its independent contractor. (Doc. 28-1, citing Iglesias v. Chevron, U.S.A., Inc., 656 F.Supp.2d 598, 601 (E.D. La. 2009.) Anadarko further argues that it was not independently negligent because it was not involved in nor did it exercise control over the operation and had no duty to intervene to ensure the safety of the operation. (Doc. 28-1, p. 12.)

Plaintiff opposes Anadarko's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 33.) In his Opposition, Plaintiff argues that Anadarko has not proven that the scaffolding was owned by Dolphin[2] and that questions of fact exist as to whether Anadarko can contractually relieve itself of obligations imposed by law. (Doc. 33, p. 1-3.) Plaintiff also questions whether Anadarko has offered sufficient evidence to show that it was not independently negligent. (Doc. 33, p. 5-7.)

In its Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition, Anadarko argues that Plaintiff's arguments are contrary to Fifth Circuit precedent, and that the fact questions surrounding Plaintiff's comparative fault are immaterial to the legal arguments raised in its motion. (Doc. 41, p. 2.) Anadarko asserts that the statutes cited by Plaintiff raise no duty on the part of Anadarko and that Plaintiff has proven no private cause of action exists as to it. (Doc. 41, p. 3-7.) Finally, Anadarko points out that Plaintiff has cited no evidence to refute his sworn testimony that Dolphin owned, constructed, and maintained the scaffolding. (Doc. 41, p. 8.)

III. Standard on Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment shall be granted when there are no genuine issues of material facts and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex v. Carrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under applicable law in the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable fact finder could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. at 248-49, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Inorder to grant a motion for summary judgment, the Court must be satisfied "that the evidence favoring the nonmoving party is insufficient to enable a reasonable jury to return a verdict in her favor." Lavespere v. Niagra Mach. & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 178 (5th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505).

The moving party bears the burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548. However, if the dispositive issues is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the nonmoving party may satisfy the burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in the record contains insufficient proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's claim. Id. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Lavaspere, 910 F.2d at 178. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referencing evidence, set out specific factsshowing that the genuine issue exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

The non-movant may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish agenuine issue existsfor trial. Id. at 325, 106 S.Ct.2548; Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). The non-movant's burden in a summary judgment motion is not satisfied by conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or by a mere scintilla of evidence. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d at 1075. Instead, "[t]he non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim." Duffie v. United States, 600 F.3d 362, 371 (5th Cir. 2010) (internalquotation marks omitted). If ...

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