United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
DANNY LUKE AND S.J. BEAULIEU, JR.
LOUISIANA LAND AND EXPLORATION COMPANY, LLC, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
MARTIN, . C. FELDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the defendant's motion for summary judgment.
For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.
a maritime personal injury case. In June 2014, the
plaintiff's skiff struck a submerged piling when he was
checking his crab cages near Four Island Dome. He fell and
sustained injuries to his head, neck, back and other areas;
his skiff was also damaged. The plaintiff alleges that his
accident was caused by the negligence of the defendants.
Since July 2010, Hilcorp has held mineral leases in the Four
Island Dome Field.
defendants move for summary judgment, contending they did not
own, control, maintain, or place the piling that struck the
plaintiff's skiff. In the alternative, the defendants
submit that Hilcorp purchased any and all mineral interests
in the Four Island Dome Field in 2010, before the
plaintiff's accident, and therefore move this Court to
alternatively dismiss the plaintiff's claims against
LL&E, Burlington, Conoco, and Exxon.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 instructs that summary judgment is
proper if the record discloses no genuine dispute as to any
material fact such that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. No genuine dispute of fact
exists if the record taken as a whole could not lead a
rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.
See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A genuine dispute of fact exists
only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the non-moving party."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
Court emphasizes that the mere argued existence of a factual
dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported
motion. See id. Therefore, "[i]f the evidence
is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative,
" summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at
249-50 (citations omitted). Summary judgment is also proper
if the party opposing the motion fails to establish an
essential element of his case. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In this regard,
the non-moving party must do more than simply deny the
allegations raised by the moving party. See Donaghey v.
Ocean Drilling & Exploration Co., 974 F.2d 646, 649
(5th Cir. 1992). Rather, he must come forward with competent
evidence, such as affidavits or depositions, to buttress his
claim. Id. Hearsay evidence and unsworn documents
that cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible
in evidence at trial do not qualify as competent opposing
evidence. Martin v. John W. Stone Oil Distrib.,
Inc., 819 F.2d 547, 549 (5th Cir. 1987); Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(2). Finally, in evaluating the summary judgment motion,
the Court must read the facts in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
alleged incident in this case occurred in navigable waters,
giving this Court admiralty jurisdiction. See Branch v.
Schumann, 445 F.2d 175, 177-78 (5th Cir. 1971). A
private party assumes liability for damages resulting from a
collision of a boat with an obstruction in navigable waters
when it has ownership, custody, control, or is responsible
for the placement of the obstruction in navigable waters.
See Creppel v. Shell Oil Co., 738 F.2d 699, 701 (5th
Cir. 1984); Savoie v. Chevron Texaco, No. 04-1302,
2006 WL 2795460, at *2 (E.D. La. Sept. 27, 2006).
the plaintiff speculates the existence of disputed facts to
create a genuine issue of material fact. The plaintiff
focuses on the fact that Hilcorp had a piling removed in the
alleged vicinity of the plaintiff's accident after the
incident occurred. The only evidence in the record to support
the allegation that the piling Hilcorp removed was in fact
the piling the plaintiff struck, is testimony that the piling
was from an area allegedly where the accident occurred and
placed on a bank within Hilcorp's leased premises. No
witness testified that it was undoubtedly the same piling
struck by the plaintiff; the plaintiff and others who helped
him at the time of the accident took no efforts to mark the
particular piling he struck. Moreover, the piling removed
from the alleged area did not have any markings to indicate
it belonged to Hilcorp. Therefore, the plaintiff merely
presents rank speculation that more likely than not the
piling was under the control of Hilcorp because it was a few
hundred feet away from its facility and the accident
allegedly occurred within its leased premises.
record submitted to the Court reflects that at no time since
Hilcorp acquired this lease in 2010 has it installed or owned
anything in the alleged vicinity of the plaintiff's
accident. To reiterate this Court's previous statements
in a strikingly similar Order and Reasons related to this
very same incident, a lessee “owes no duty toward those
using the navigable waterways to clear away obstructions that
it does not own, has not placed there, or does not maintain
there under its control.” Creppel, 738 F.2d at
plaintiff relies heavily on Punch v. Chevron USA,
Inc., No. 12-388, 2012 WL 5289379 (E.D. La. Oct. 24,
2012) (Lemelle, J.), where the court denied summary judgment.
In Punch, the court found a genuine issue of
material fact as to whether the defendant owned, controlled,
or placed the piling at issue, because a civil engineer and
land surveyor stated that it was likely that the piling was
once a part of a Texaco facility that the defendant later
acquired. Punch is of no help. Here, there is
nothing of record that Hilcorp owned or controlled the
piling. The record reflects only ...