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Wimberly v. Harvey Gulf International Marine, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 27, 2015

MARTIN WIMBERLY
v.
HARVEY GULF INTERNATIONAL MARINE, LLC

ORDER AND REASONS

IVAN L.R. LEMELLE, District Judge.

I. NATURE OF THE MOTION AND RELIEF SOUGHT

Before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment by Defendant.[1] Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition.[2] Defendant has filed a reply.[3] The motion, set for submission on March 25, 2015 is before the Court on the briefings, without oral argument. Accordingly, and for the reasons enumerated below,

IT IS ORDERED that the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment be GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part. IT IS ORDERED that Wimberly's claims for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees arising from Harvey Gulf's alleged failure to pay maintenance and cure be DISMISSED.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This action arises under 46 U.S.C. ยง 30104, the Jones Act, and the General Maritime Laws.[4] On or about January 2, 2014, plaintiff, Martin Wimberly ("Wimberly") was an employee of defendant, Harvey Gulf International Marine, LLC, ("Harvey Gulf" or "Defendant") and working aboard the M/V HARVEY SAINT, when he suffered severe and excruciating injuries to his back, neck and other parts of his body, alleged to have been caused by the negligence of the defendant, and its employees and/or the unseaworthiness of the vessel.[5]

On May 28, 2014, Wimberly filed suit against Harvey Gulf, alleging claims for negligence; unseaworthiness; for maintenance and cure benefits; and for compensatory damages, attorney's fees and punitive damages for alleged failure to pay maintenance and cure benefits.[6] Defendant moves the Court for partial summary judgment, arguing that: plaintiff cannot establish the essential elements of his (1) negligence and (2) unseaworthiness claims and, (3) defendant has paid all maintenance and cure benefits.[7] The Court now reviews the facts, contentions, and the law with respect to the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

III. ANALYSIS

a. Standard of Law: Partial Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 749 (5th Cir. 2002). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Royal v. CCC & R. Tres Arboles, L.L.C., 736 F.3d 396, 400 (5th Cir. 2013). A party cannot "defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantial assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence.'" Celtic Marine Corp. v. James C. Justice Companies, Inc., 760 F.3d 477, 481 (5th Cir. 2014) ; TIG Ins. Co., 276 F.3d at 759.

The proponent of the motion always bears the initial burden of showing a lack of evidence to support his opponent's case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Stauffer v. Gearhart, 741 F.3d 574, 582 (5th Cir. 2014). Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party satisfies this initial burden by demonstrating an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. at 325. The Court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. TIG Ins. Co., 276 F.3d at 759. A court must refrain from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence. Celtic Marine Corp, 760 F.3d at 481.

1. Negligence Claim

Plaintiff claims to have been injured as a result of the negligence of defendant and its employees.[8] Under the Jones Act, a seaman has a cause of action if an employer's negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing an injury. Gavagan v. U.S., 955 F.2d 1016, 1018 (5th Cir. 1992). A Jones Act employer has a duty to provide a reasonably safe place to work. Daigle v. L & L Marine Trans. Co., 322 F.Supp.2d 717, 725 (E.D. La. 2004).[9] However, liability does not attach to a Jones Act employer for injuries suffered by its employees absent proof that the injury occurred during the course of employment, that there was negligence on the part of the employer, and that such negligence was the cause, in whole or in part, of the seaman's injury. Gautreaux v. Scurlock Marine, Inc., 107 F.3d 331, 338 (5th Cir. 1997)(en banc). Any failure of defendant to warn plaintiff of conditions of which he was, or should have been, aware would not be negligence on the part of the defendant.[10] A seaman is obligated under the Jones Act to act with ordinary prudence under the circumstances. Gautreaux, 107 F.3d at 339.

Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claims for negligence should be dismissed for lack of supporting evidence.[11] Defendant characterizes Plaintiff's negligence claim as follows: "he was required to handle a heavy wet line by [himself] because of the poor condition of the fuel dock and lack of assistance of the Dock Attendant, " who is not employed by Harvey Gulf.[12] Defendant points to Plaintiff's deposition testimony to support its assertion, and argues ...


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