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Higginbotham v. Drake Towing, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 25, 2015

JEDEDIAH L. HIGGINBOTHAM
v.
DRAKE TOWING, L.L.C. AND DRAKE ENERGY PARTNERS, L.L.C

ORDER AND REASONS

MARY ANN VIAL LEMMON, District Judge.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants' Motion for Sanctions (Doc. #12) is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

This matter is before the court on a motion for sanctions under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and for attorneys' fees under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1927. Defendants, Drake Towing, L.L.C. and Drake Energy Partners, L.L.C. (collectively "Drake"), argue that dismissal of the complaint and an award of attorneys' fees and costs incurred in conjunction with the filing of the motion are justified because this court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims and the complaint contains statements that are inconsistent with those found in a state-court petition plaintiff filed in Texas that is related to the same accident alleged in the instant complaint.

On April 19, 2013, plaintiff, Jedediah L. Higginbotham, filed a petition in the 215th Judicial District Court, Harris County, Texas, against Saratoga Resources, Inc., Drake Towing LLC and John Doe Company Man. Plaintiff alleged the factual predicate of his complaint as follows:

On or about April 22, 2012, Plaintiff was working for Alliance Oilfield Services on a Drake vessel (barge) at/near the Atchafalaya Basin, on a job for and/or being directed by Saratoga and/or its Company Man. On said date, Plaintiff was required to work on the well in the dark, and sustained severe and disabling injuries, including, but not limited to, contusion of the left chest wall, pulmonary contusion of the left lung, pneumothorax left, fractured ribs left, thigh, arm and other injuries, requiring hospitalization. Said injuries were caused in whole or in part by the negligence and/or gross negligence of Defendants, their agents, servants and/or employees.

On July 8, 2013, plaintiff filed an amended petition. He added the factual allegation that:

Defendant Saratoga and/or Defendant Drake was negligent in failing to provide a safe means of ingress and egress between Defendant Drake's vessel and the well on which Plaintiff was assigned to work. Defendant Saratoga and/or Defendant Drake was further negligent in failing to provide Plaintiff with a safe place to work, failing to provide a work basket or other platform for him to stand on in order to perform the work he was required to perform on the well, and failing to provide fall protection to prevent him from falling from the well into the water. Defendant Saratoga and/or Defendant Drake was further negligent in allowing the work to be conducted by Plaintiff after daylight hours, without adequate lighting.

In his Interrogatory responses provided in connection with the Texas case, plaintiff described the accident as follows:

On April 22, 2012, at roughly 10:30 p.m., I was working on a well participating in a plug and abandonment job. Pipe was being removed from the well. I stepped off of the well, and attempted to step onto a pylon so that I would not block the view of the crane operator who needed to be able to see where the pipe was in order to hook up to the next joint of pipe. It was dark, and when I stepped from the pylon I fell roughly 12-13 feet to the water below, striking the beams around the well as I was falling.

Plaintiff's Interrogatory responses described the facts upon which he based his allegations:

Plaintiff was working from a Drake vessel on Saratoga's well. The well did not have an adequate platform, deck or cribbing around it for Plaintiff to stand on, and the vessel did not provide a personnel work basket or any means of tying off a safety harness to prevent Plaintiff from falling off of the well, while working after hours in the dark, without adequate lighting.

At his deposition, plaintiff testified that he "lived and ate and worked" on a Drake barge during the job. He also testified that he fell off of the well.

Plaintiff settled his claims against Saratoga. On March 23, 2015, plaintiff filed a "Notice of Nonsuit without Prejudice" in the Texas case voluntarily dismissing his claims against Drake Towing LLC. That same day, he filed this action against Drake and Inland Marine, LLC.[1 ...


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