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Lewis v. Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana

May 6, 2015

ROBERT LEWIS, JR.
v.
HELMERICH & PAYNE INTERNATIONAL DRILLING CO, ET AL.

SECTION "L"

ORDER AND REASONS

Before the Court are motions for summary judgment from various Defendants, (Rec. Docs. 73, 77, 103, 104). The Court has reviewed the parties’ memoranda, supporting documentation, and the applicable law, and now issues this Order and Reasons.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises out of an injury that occurred offshore. Robert Lewis filed suit on October 1, 2013 under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”) and the Longshore and Habor Workers’ Compensation Act. (See Rec. Docs. 1, 25, 49). Mr. Lewis alleges that he was an employee of Bay LTD, a subsidiary of Berry G.P., working on the Ram-Powell tension-leg fixed platform, located on the OCS in the Gulf of Mexico, in Viosca Knoll Block 956.

According to Mr. Lewis, on October 25, 2012, he was working on a welding job on the Ram-Powell. Mr. Lewis alleges that prior to, and during, a Bay Safety meeting that day, he informed the Bay project leader and the Shell Safety Representative that there was a hazardous pile of materials impeding his work duties. Mr. Lewis also alleges that the employees of Sparrows and Nabors, crane operators, were informed of the pile of materials. According to Mr. Lewis, Defendants failed to remedy the hazardous condition and failed to properly clean the platform. Mr. Lewis also asserts that Mark Cundiff, who worked on the Ram-Powell for Safety Management Systems (“SMS”) as the acting Health Safety & Environmental Technician, failed to create a safe work environment.

According to Mr. Lewis, at the request of a Bay employee he carried a fifty-pound plate up a set of stairs to the welding project. As he attempted to step around a co-worker on the stairs, he slipped on the oily deck and while attempting to regain his balance he tripped on the pile of materials. He alleges that he landed on his left elbow while holding the plate, which caused “severe and debilitating injuries.” Mr. Lewis alleges that he suffered a herniated disk along with damage to other discs, which resulted in epidural steroid injections to his cervical spine and lumbar spine, an ulnar transposition surgery and an L5S1 discetomy recommendation.

Recently, the Court ruled that the law of Alabama, the state adjacent to where the Ram-Powell sits on the OCS, supplements the gaps in federal law to provide the substantive law for this private OCSLA dispute. (Rec. Doc. 88).

II. PRESENT MOTION

A. Nabors’ motion for summary judgment

In its motion for summary judgment, Nabors argues that, as a matter of law, it owed no duty to Mr. Lewis. (Rec. Docs. 77, 109).[1] In the alternative, Nabors argues that even if it had a duty, it did not breach the duty. Specifically, Nabors asserts that it had no operational control over Mr. Lewis’s work and that it had no independent authority to operate the cranes. Nabors argues that it was not aware of Mr. Lewis’s alleged request to move the equipment. Nabors also argues that it could not have foreseen that Mr. Lewis might attempt to carry two heavy welding plates through a narrow area where he knew a tripping hazard was present. Moreover, Nabors argues that the doctrine of assumption of the risk bars Mr. Lewis’s claim because he knew of, and appreciated, the risk and voluntarily exposed himself to that risk.

Mr. Lewis opposes.[2] (Rec. Doc. 125). First and foremost, Mr. Lewis argues that Nabors owed him a duty. Mr. Lewis asserts that it is reasonable to conclude that the Nabors crane operator on the Ram-Powell placed the obstructing materials in Mr. Lewis’s work area. Mr. Lewis argues that Nabors effectively created the hazard which contributed to his injury. Further, citing the testimony of the crane operator, in which the operator acknowledges that if he had seen the materials in Mr. Lewis’s area, he would have moved them, Mr. Lewis argues that even if a Nabors’ employee did not create the hazard, the employee could have moved the materials.

Nabors replies, by leave of Court. (Rec. Doc. 135).

B. Sparrows’ motion for summary judgment

In its motion for summary judgment, Sparrows argues that it has no liability for the accident because it had no crane operators on the platform. (Rec. Doc. 73). Rather, Sparrows indicates that its employee, Alex Regal, only trained / assessed crane operators and that he did not otherwise tell crane operators what to do. Sparrows indicates that no facts support that Mr. Regal operated any crane at the time of the incident, but rather notes that he only trained/assessed crane ...


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