United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
T. TRIMBLE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court is a "Motion for Summary Judgment" (R.
#100) filed by Defendant, International Enviroguard, Inc.
("Enviroguard"), who moves for summary judgment on
the grounds that there are no genuine issues of material fact
in dispute and Enviroguard is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Enviroguard maintains that Plaintiff is unable
to meet his requisite burden of proof for his claim that the
product manufactured by Enviroguard is unreasonably dangerous
under the Louisiana Product Liability Act.
Dustin Wright, an employee of Wyatt Field Service Company
("Wyatt"), was injured on 2/24/2012 in an
industrial fire at a refinery operated by ConocoPhillips
Company, Inc. and Excel Paralubes, Inc.
("Conoco/Excel"). Conoco/Excel hired Wyatt, Mr.
Wright's employer, to perform demolition and
reconstruction work in a vacuum tower. Wyatt was cutting and
removing steel beams from the inner compartments of the tower
at the time of Plaintiff's accident.
demolition was performed by a violent and destructive process
known as air carbon arc gouging, which heats metal to the
point that it becomes hot molten slag. The slag can rise to a
temperature of thousands of degrees; this process generates
fire, sparks and molten metal which is ejected over a broad
safety precaution, and prior to Wyatt performing the work,
Conoco/Excel drained the tower of flammable oil, although
there is some evidence to suggest that not all of the
flammable oil was removed. Conoco/Excel hired Defendant,
Airgas Onsite Safety Services ("Airgas") to insure
that explosive gases were not present during the demolition
employees wore several layers of personal protective clothing
while on the job. First, over the direct clothing (blue jeans
and shirt), was a full length flame-resistant cloth coverall
made of flame-resistant fibers which diminishes after 50
laundering cycles. Worn over these coveralls was a disposable
outer Pyroguard® FR garment manufactured by Enviroguard.
This outer garment was a disposable, one-time use garment
manufactured to be worn over the coveralls to extend the life
of the coveralls by protecting it from excessive exposure to
dirt, grease, grime and chemicals. The outer garment is
designed for only a few hours of work-life, and is discarded
and replaced with a new clean set possibly multiple times
daily. The outer garment had a warning label which states
that it should not be used for primary fire protection and to
"AVOID CONTACT WITH OPEN FLAME."
makes no express warranty. The garment label states that
Enviroguard "makes no warranty or claims with respect to
specific applications. The end user is responsible for
selecting the appropriate garment for use. Improper use may
result in injury or death."
February 24, 2012, Mr. Wright was assigned to assist Wyatt
welder, Derrick Johnson, with the removal of steel beams
within the tower using the air carbon arc gouging machine.
The arc gouging machine was "blowing fire" and
"threw a lot of flames out." A few small fires
erupted on the fire blanket which Mr. Wright stomped out. A
large piece of slag then fell on the fire blanket, creating
another fire. Mr. Wright contends the fire was started when
sparks/fire/slag from the air gouging machine ignited oil
residue on the fire blanket that was left in the compartment
by Conoco/Excel. Mr. Wright was injured while trying to put
out the fire by stomping on it. While there is evidence that
Mr. Johnson blew the fire and fire blanket onto Mr.
Wright's legs with the arc gouger in an attempt to
extinguish the fire, this is disputed by both Mr. Wright and
Mr. Johnson's recent deposition testimony.
judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, when viewed in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party, indicate that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
A fact is "material" if its existence or
nonexistence "might affect the outcome of the suit under
governing law." A dispute about a material fact is
"genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party. As to issues which the non-moving party
has the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may
satisfy this burden by demonstrating the absence of evidence
supporting the non-moving party's
claim." Once the movant makes this showing, the
burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial. The burden requires more than mere
allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings.
The non-moving party must demonstrate by way of affidavit or
other admissible evidence that there are genuine issues of
material fact or law. There is no genuine issue of material fact
if, viewing the evidence in the light more favorable to the
non-moving party, no reasonable trier of fact could find for
the non-moving party. If the evidence is merely colorable,
or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be
the LPLA, a manufacturer of a product "shall be liable
to a claimant for damage proximately caused by a
characteristic of the product that renders the product
unreasonably dangerous when such damage arose from a
reasonably anticipated use of the product by the