United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
CARL J. BARBIER, District Judge.
Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 19) filed by Defendant, Cargill, Inc. ("Cargill"), an Opposition thereto (Rec. Doc. 20) by Plaintiff, James Rose, Jr. ("Plaintiff"), and Cargill's Reply (Rec. Doc. 24). 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 arises out of injuries allegedly sustained by Plaintiff aboard the barge HBM 3010 ("the Barge") located at a fleeting facility owned by Cargill in Edgard, Louisiana. At the time of the incident, Plaintiff alleges that he was employed by B&K Contracting ("B&K"), who had been hired by Cargill to clean the barges located at the facility. On the day of the incident, Plaintiff was assigned by B&K to pressure wash the hold of the Barge. The Barge was adjacent to two other barges stationed at the fleeting facility. Plaintiff alleges that as he was stepping from one barge to the Barge, he slipped on soybeans situated on the deck of the Barge and fell overboard. Plaintiff further alleges that while he was in the water, the force of the waves repeatedly slammed him into the side of the Barge. As a result of his fall and subsequent collision with the Barge, Plaintiff alleges that he sustained serious injuries, including injuries to his head, neck, left arm, knee, and shoulder. (Rec. Doc. 1, p. 3).
Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit in this Court on October 20, 2014, naming both Cargill and Cargill's unidentified insurance company as defendants, and asserting claims pursuant to general maritime law. Plaintiff specifically claims that Cargill acted negligently by failing, amongst other things, to provide a safe workplace, to keep the Barge deck clear of hazards, to properly instruct its employees, and to cease operations on the Barge until the soybeans had been cleaned. (Rec. Doc. 1, p. 4). On April 21, 2015, the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation, the workers' compensation insurer for B&K, intervened in the lawsuit, seeking to recover a portion of the award Plaintiff may ultimately recover as reimbursement for the workers' compensation payments already paid to Plaintiff. (Rec. Doc. 18).
Cargill filed the instant motion on June 5, 2015, requesting that the Court grant summary judgment in its favor and dismiss all Plaintiff's claims against it on the basis that Plaintiff is unable to present a prima facie case of negligence at this stage in the proceedings.
Cargill asserts that Plaintiff's claims for negligence must be dismissed, because Cargill owed Plaintiff no "duty to protect him from his own inattentiveness." (Rec. Doc. 19-1, p. 5). Cargill first disputes Plaintiff's allegations that Cargill is the owner or operator of the barge. Cargill denies that it either owned or operated the Barge, and as such, asserts it did not have a duty to maintain the Barge or instruct its crew. Second, Cargill contends that it did not owe Plaintiff a duty to clean the soybeans off the deck of the Barge or to warn Plaintiff of the existence of the soybeans, because this was the exact condition Plaintiff had been specifically hired to remedy. Third, Cargill asserts that it never provided Plaintiff with supervision and direction over his cleaning of the Barge, and that Plaintiff was instead directly supervised by B&K. As such, Cargill argues that only B&K, and not Cargill, may be found liable for failing to exercise proper care when supervising and directing Plaintiff while he performed services aboard the Barge.
In response, Plaintiff first maintains that Cargill is the owner and operator of the Barge. Plaintiff relies on evidence which identifies Cargo Carriers, Inc. ("Cargo Carriers"), which is designated as "a business of Cargill, " as the actual owner of the Barge, and asserts that Cargill is unable to present evidence to refute its ownership. (Rec. Doc. 20, p. 2). Although Plaintiff only briefly addresses his claims premised on Cargill's negligence with regards to the soybeans, he devotes a substantial portion of his Opposition to arguing that Cargill's failure to erect a ramp or walkway between the barges proximately caused Plaintiff's fall. Plaintiff specifically asserts that "it was unreasonable for Cargill to turn over the cleaning of the barges to B&K Contracting without providing safe walkways between the barges." (Rec. Doc. 20, p. 5).
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 ...