United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana
SECTION: J (3)
ORDER AND REASONS
CARL J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 64) filed by Defendant, Bennu Titan, LLC (“Bennu”), formerly known as ATP Titan LLC, an Opposition thereto (Rec. Doc. 68) by Plaintiff, Randy Comeaux, and Bennu’s Reply (Rec. Doc. 71). This motion is set for Oral Argument before the Court on April 22, 2015. Having considered the motion, the parties’ submissions, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds, for the reasons expressed below, that the motion should be GRANTED.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
This matter derives from injuries allegedly sustained by Plaintiff aboard the ATP Titan Platform, which at the time of the incident, was owned by Bennu. The ATP Titan Platform is located off the coast of Louisiana, in the Mississippi Valley area of the Outer Continental Shelf. While Bennu is the actual owner of the platform, pursuant to an Offshore Platform Use Agreement, ATP Oil and Gas Corporation (“ATP Oil & Gas”) is to serve as operator and have “sole and exclusive possession and use” of the platform during a period from 2010 to 2022. (Rec. Doc. 64-2, p. 8, 15, 17).
In December 2012, Plaintiff was employed by Greystar Corporation (“Greystar”). Pursuant to a contract between Greystar and ATP Oil & Gas, Plaintiff was to perform various services for ATP Oil & Gas aboard the ATP Titan Platform during the period between December 16, 2010 and December 16, 2012. Plaintiff alleges that during this time, employees of ATP Oil & Gas and/or Bennu repeatedly discharged hazardous chemicals on or in close proximity to the ATP Titan Platform, thereby exposing him to “crude oil, methanol, LDH 43, paraffin inhibitor, asphaltine inhibitor, defoamer, and calcium bromide.” (Rec. Doc. 1, p. 2-3). As a result of his exposure to these chemicals, Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered severe injuries, including “headaches, nausea, dizziness, nasal burning, burning of the eyes, digestive tract upset, disorientation, blurred vision, and extreme lethargy.” (Rec. Doc. 1, p. 3).
Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit on December 5, 2013, initially naming as defendants ATP Oil & Gas and ATP Infrastructure. Plaintiff subsequently filed an amended complaint in which he substituted Bennu as defendant in place of ATP Infrastructure. (Rec. Doc. 24). Plaintiff claims that as operator and owner of the platform, respectively, ATP Oil & Gas and Bennu should be found liable for their intentional and negligent acts of discharging the toxic chemicals in violation of various permits and leases which had been issued to them by the United States. On November 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint, adding as defendants Gemini Insurance Company and Underwriters at Lloyds London Syndicate #4711, as the insurance providers for both ATP Oil & Gas and Bennu. (Rec. Doc. 45).
Bennu filed the instant motion on March 31, 2015, seeking summary judgment in its favor on all of Plaintiff’s claims against it. Bennu specifically argues that, as owner of the vessel, it may not be found liable for Plaintiff’s injuries, all of which were incurred as a result of ATP Oil & Gas’s alleged negligent operations aboard the platform, and not from Bennu’s status as owner.
Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)); 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 refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated assertions. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. A court ultimately must be satisfied that “a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.
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, 1263-64 (5th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, 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. at 325; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.
Bennu’s argument in favor of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims revolves entirely around a contract signed between it and ATP Oil & Gas, known as the Offshore Platform Use Agreement. Bennu argues that pursuant to this agreement, ATP Oil & Gas had sole and exclusive control over operations performed aboard the platform and thus bears complete responsibility for any injury incurred from its fault or negligence in operating the platform. Although Plaintiff does not contest the existence or viability of this Agreement, he does dispute that this contract entirely relieves Bennu of liability for his injuries. Plaintiff also argues that summary judgment at this stage in the proceedings is premature, as several issues regarding discovery have yet to be resolved. For instance, Plaintiff asserts that another contract existed between Bennu and ...