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Crawford v. BP Corporation North America Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 16, 2015

CHARLES CRAWFORD, Plaintiff
v.
BP CORPORATION NORTH AMERICA INC., ET AL., Defendants.

ORDER AND REASONS

SUSIE MORGAN, District Judge.

This is a maritime action arising on a platform (the "MARLIN") located on the Outer Continental Shelf ("OCS"). During the course and scope of his employment with BP America Production Company ("BP America"), Charles Crawford ("Crawford") sustained personal injury when another worker-Blain Matthew ("Matthew")-dropped a vacuum pump on his back. Crawford has filed suit against Matthew's employer, Danos and Curole Marine Contractors, L.L.C. ("Danos"). Danos responded with a motion for summary judgment.[1] The question presented is whether Matthew is a borrowed employee of BP America. If so, Crawford has no cause of action against Matthew, and, by extension, Danos.

For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED, and Crawford's claims against Danos are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Because the claims of Intervenor Plaintiff BP America are premised on the viability of Crawford's claims against Danos, BP America's claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as well.

BACKGROUND

BP America employs Crawford as an electrician assigned to the MARLIN-a tension leg platform owned by BP Exploration & Production, Inc. ("BP Exploration"). On March 9, 2012, Crawford was injured aboard the MARLIN when Matthew dropped a vacuum pump on his lower back. Danos is Matthew's payroll employer.

Crawford filed suit against BP America, BP Exploration, and Danos.[2] Danos answered and asserted a crossclaim against BP America for indemnity.[3] The Court transferred the crossclaim to the Southern District of Texas.[4] Crawford subsequently dismissed his claims against BP America and BP Exploration, [5] leaving Danos as the sole defendant. BP America then intervened as a plaintiff, seeking subrogation for payments made to Crawford under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (the "Longshore Act").[6]

Danos has filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Matthew is a borrowed employee of BP America. After the motion came under submission, the Court allowed Crawford to further supplement his opposition.[7] Crawford filed a supplemental memorandum, [8] and Danos filed a response.[9]

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate 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."[10] A genuine dispute exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party."[11] The Court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.[12]

DISCUSSION

Liability in this case depends on the interplay between the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act ("OSCLA"), [13] the Longshore Act, and the "borrowed employee" doctrine. The OSCLA extends the Longshore Act to certain injuries occurring on the OCS.[14] The Longshore Act prohibits an injured employee from suing "persons in the same employ" for negligence.[15] This prohibition extends to suit by one employee against a borrowed employee of the same employer.[16] In other words, Crawford (as an employee of BP America) has no cause of action against Matthew if Matthew is a borrowed employee of BP America. If there is no cause of action against Matthew, the predicate for respondeat superior liability is missing, and there can be no cause of action against Matthew's nominal employer, Danos.[17] Thus, the viability of Crawford's claims against Danos turns on whether Matthew is a borrowed employee of BP America.

The borrowed employee doctrine evolved in the tort context but has since been applied to cases arising under the Longshore Act.[18] Whether Matthew was a borrowed employee is a question of law, [19] and "if sufficient basic factual ingredients are undisputed, the court may grant summary judgment."[20] The Fifth Circuit has set forth nine factors that are determinative of borrowed employee status:

(1) Who had control over the employee and the work he was performing, beyond mere suggestion ...

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