United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN, District Judge.
Before the Court is Gulf Horizon's motion for partial summary judgment to dismiss Campbell's claim for punitive damages related to maintenance and cure. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.
This litigation arises out of personal injuries sustained by Scott Campbell while he was a cook aboard a docking vessel.
Gulf Horizon Services, LLC assigns, as part of its business, current employees to other companies for both sea- and land-based jobs upon request. Before the incident on July 24, 2014, Campbell was a Gulf Horizon employee, assigned to work as a cook on a vessel owned and operated by Offshore Liftboats. On July 24, 2014, Campbell was aboard the vessel while it was deployed, and when the Offshore Liftboats' captain maneuvered the vessel into the dock, it collided with the dock, causing Campbell to sustain injuries when he fell into a wall.
Gulf Horizon contends that a Gulf Horizon director, Will Constant, made arrangements to have Campbell transported to Occupational Medicine Services (OMS) in response to the incident, and that OMS diagnosed Campbell with a lower back contusion, directed Campbell to take Aleve and apply ice, and released Campbell to full duty. Gulf Horizon contends that Campbell told Constant that he wished to return to work, but that during the days following, Campbell continued to complain of stiffness and pain. Gulf Horizon also avers that Constant offered additional treatment from OMS, but that Campbell refused to use OMS for any further procedures or treatment options.
Gulf Horizon submits that Constant followed up with Campbell, but that his phone calls went unanswered. Campbell never returned to work. On August, 22, 2014, Gulf Horizon received a letter from Ryan Zehl, an attorney, threatening punitive damages for Gulf Horizon's failure to pay Campbell maintenance and cure for his medical treatment. Gulf Horizon notes that this was the first time that it was put on notice that Campbell did not intend to return to work and that he demanded maintenance and cure.
Gulf Horizon contends that on August 25, 2014, it began investigating whether it owed Campbell maintenance and cure, and if so, the reasonable local rate. Gulf Horizon maintains that, to date, it has not received any medical reports other than the one from OMS.
On September 8, 2014, ten business days from beginning the investigation, Gulf Horizon issued maintenance pay "under protest" at the rate of $35 per day. Gulf Horizon contends that it has compensated Campbell each day since July 25, 2014, the day after the accident.
On September 25, 2014, Campbell filed this lawsuit, and on November 11, 2014, he amended his complaint. Campbell claims that he is entitled to relief from his employers, Offshore Liftboats and Gulf Horizons, under the Jones Act and general maritime law for general maritime negligence, unseaworthiness, punitive damages, and for maintenance and cure because he suffered severe spine injuries in the dock collision. Defendant, Gulf Horizon, now seeks to have Campbell's claim for punitive damages related to maintenance and cure dismissed on summary judgment.
I. Standard for Summary Judgment
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 instructs that summary judgment is proper if the record discloses no genuine issue as to any material fact such that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. No genuine issue of fact exists if the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A genuine issue of fact exists only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
The Court emphasizes that the mere argued existence of a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion. See id. Therefore, "[i]f the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, " summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted). Summary judgment is also proper if the party opposing the motion fails to establish an essential element of his case. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In this regard, the non-moving party must do more than simply deny the allegations raised by the moving party. See Donaghey v. Ocean Drilling & Exploration Co., 974 F.2d 646, 649 (5th Cir. 1992). Rather, he must come forward with competent evidence, such as affidavits or depositions, to buttress his claims. Id . Hearsay evidence and unsworn documents do not qualify as competent opposing evidence. Martin v. John W. ...