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Baldwin v. CleanBlast, LLC

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

February 4, 2015

MARK BALDWIN
v.
CLEANBLAST, LLC

APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF ACADIA, NO. 2013-10251. HONORABLE THOMAS R. DUPLANTIER, DISTRICT JUDGE.

J. Daniel Rayburn, Jr., Susan A. Daigle, Daigle Rayburn, LLC, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: CleanBlast, LLC.

Patrick H. Hufft, Hufft & Hufft, APLC, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Mark Baldwin.

K. Adam Avin, Irpino, Avin, Higgin & Hawkins, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Mark Baldwin.

Court composed of Jimmie C. Peters, Marc T. Amy, and Shannon J. Gremillion, Judges.

OPINION

Page 271

[14-1026 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] AMY, Judge.

The plaintiff was assigned to the M/V Brody Paul to work as a sandblaster/painter on various rigs and platforms located in the navigable waters of the Gulf of Mexico. After allegedly sustaining injuries in a fall, the plaintiff sought compensation pursuant to the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 688, and general maritime law. His employer filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking a determination that the plaintiff was not a seaman given the circumstances of his assignment and, therefore, ineligible to recover as such. The trial court initially denied the motion, but later entered summary judgment in favor of the employer after supplementation of evidence. The plaintiff appeals. For the following reasons, we reverse the summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Factual and Procedural Background

The plaintiff, Mark Baldwin, was an employee of CleanBlast, LLC, at the time of the alleged underlying, July 16, 2012 accident. By the petition instituting this matter against CleanBlast, the plaintiff asserted that, in his capacity as a sandblaster/painter, he was assigned to the M/V Brody Paul, which was " working and operating in the navigable waters of the Gulf of Mexico." The record establishes that, at the time of the accident, the CleanBlast crew was providing its services to Tennessee Oil and Gas Company and working on that company's rigs and platforms situated in the Gulf. The plaintiff alleged that the accident occurred after he and the crew were instructed to blast risers owned by Tennessee Oil and Gas and were not provided with the proper equipment. In that attempt, the plaintiff stated, he " fell backward suffering severe and disabling injuries including, but not limited to, injuries to his back and neck."

[14-1026 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] The plaintiff suggested that, as his Jones Act employer, CleanBlast " violated its non-delegable duty to provide [him] a safe working environment." He sought various damages for the employer's " vessel negligence pursuant to the Jones Act and/or general maritime laws of the United States for negligently causing, creating, and/or allowing the existence of one or more unreasonably dangerous conditions, which caused or contributed to [his] incident and injuries."

In response, CleanBlast filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that " there is no genuine issue as to any material fact that plaintiff is not a Jones Act seaman, and that he has no claim pursuant to Section 905(b) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, since defendant did not own or operate the vessel at issue in this matter." In its attached memorandum, CleanBlast noted, among other things, that it did not own the vessel to which the plaintiff was temporarily assigned;

Page 272

that the alleged accident occurred, not on the vessel, but on a Tennessee Oil and Gas platform; and that the plaintiff's work was largely spent on the platform compared with what it termed a minimal amount of time aboard the vessel. It noted that the vessel-bound work was performed in order to set up and gather the tools needed for the platform work, and that the plaintiff " never participated in the navigation of the M/V Brody Paul or the maintenance of the vessel engines, deck, or hull." In support, CleanBlast attached the plaintiff's application for employment, certain records evidencing the details of the plaintiff's work day (i.e. whether the work was spent in service of the vessel or whether it was spent on platform-based activities), affidavits of the plaintiff and CleanBlast employees, and the plaintiff's deposition, in which he described his work in furtherance of the Tennessee Oil and Gas contract. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the CleanBlast motion on the seaman status issue. However, the trial ...


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