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Landerman v. Tarpon Operating and Development, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 4, 2015



SARAH S. VANCE, District Judge.

Defendants Tarpon Operating and Development, L.L.C.[1] and Nabors Offshore Corporation[2] move for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motions.


On May 20, 2013, Jerry Landerman, a welder on an off-shore platform in the Gulf of Mexico, was injured while being transferred from the platform, where he worked, to the support vessel that provided his transportation and lodging. On January 15, 2014, in Louisiana state court, Landerman sued six defendants for their alleged involvement in the transfer accident: (1) Tarpon Operating and Development, LLC; (2) Shamrock Energy Solutions, LLC; (3) Nabors Offshore Corporation; (4) Rene Offshore, LLC; (5) Pan Ocean Energy Services, LLC; and (6) Hoplite Safety, LLC.[3] Shortly thereafter, defendants removed the suit to this Court.[4] Landerman moved to remand. The Court denied the motion to remand except as to Landerman's Jones Act claim, which the Court severed and remanded.[5]

The facts surrounding the accident, as alleged in Landerman's complaint, are as follows. In May 2013, Landerman worked for Pan Ocean as a welder/cutter on the West Cameron 661 "A" Platform, an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico on the Outer Continental Shelf.[6] Although Landerman worked on the platform, he lived on an offshore supply vessel, the M/V RENE.[7] On May 20, 2013, a crane operator on the platform tried to transfer Landerman from the platform to the RENE.[8] For the transfer, Landerman entered a personnel basket suspended from the crane. When the operator tried to transfer the basket to the vessel, instead of landing it cleanly on the bare deck, he landed it on a pile of equipment on the deck, causing the basket to tip over and Landerman to fall out.[9] The fall seriously injured Landerman. He blames the accident on the unseaworthiness of the RENE and the negligence of all defendants.[10] He seeks damages for lost wages and diminished earning capacity, medical expenses, pain and suffering, disability, "loss of household services, " loss of enjoyment of life, and "permanent disfigurement, " as well as maintenance and cure.[11]

The following summarizes the relationships between the parties. At the time of Landerman's accident, Hoplite provided Tarpon with "safety services to assist in the efforts to explore, develop and produce minerals in the Gulf of Mexico, " including safety consultation services on the West Cameron 661 "A" platform.[12] The platform belonged to Tarpon.[13] Tarpon hired Shamrock, an independent subcontractor, to run all of the operations on the platform.[14] Much of the activity on the platform centered on the construction of a rig, which was owned by Nabors.[15] Landerman worked as a fitter and welder for Pan Ocean, [16] a subcontractor of Nabors. Rene Offshore owned the RENE.


Summary judgment is warranted when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, the Court considers "all of the evidence in the record but refrain[s] from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence." Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398-99 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but "unsupported allegations or affidavits setting forth ultimate or conclusory facts and conclusions of law' are insufficient to either support or defeat a motion for summary judgment." Galindo v. Precision Am. Corp., 754 F.2d 1212, 1216 (5th Cir. 1985); see also Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party "must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'" Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with evidence sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact, or "showing that the moving party's evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the moving party." Id. at 1265.

If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to evidence, set out specific facts showing that a genuine issue exists. See id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial. See, e.g., id.; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 ("Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322)).


A. Tarpon's Motion for Summary Judgment

In deciding Landerman's earlier motion to remand, the Court held that it has jurisdiction over this case under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. § 1331, et seq. The Act establishes a body of law that applies to various activities occurring beyond the territorial waters of the states on the seabed, subsoil, and fixed structures on the outer Continental Shelf. 43 U.S.C. § 1333(a)(1); Rodrigue v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 395 U.S. 352, 355 (1969). It directs the Court to apply the law of the state adjacent to the controversy to the extent not inconsistent with other federal laws and regulations. See 43 U.S.C. § 1333(a)(2)(A); Rodrigue, 395 U.S. at 355. No party has cited, nor has the Court found, any conflict between federal law and the applicable Louisiana law, so the Court applies Louisiana law to Landerman's ...

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