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Spisak v. Apache Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

March 16, 2017

TIMOTHY B. SPISAK
v.
APACHE CORPORATION, ET AL.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          PATRICK J. HANNA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Currently pending is defendant Siren Oilfield Services L.L.C.'s motion for summary judgment. (Rec. Doc. 99). Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, this Court grants Siren's motion and dismisses the plaintiff's claims against Siren with prejudice.

         Background

         The following facts are undisputed. This case arises out of an incident that allegedly occurred in May of 2015 aboard a fixed SPAR oil and gas production platform known as Devil's Tower, which is located on the outer continental shelf off the coast of Louisiana. Devil's Tower has no means of propulsion and is connected to the seabed by a mooring system consisting of chains, cables, and piles or caissons embedded into the ocean floor. Codefendant Williams Field Services, LLC is the owner of the platform and codefendant Eni U.S. Operating Co. Inc. was the operator. Apache Corporation[1] is the owner of a well called Bass Lite that was tied into Devil's Tower by pipeline. The well was in the process of undergoing plug and abandonment operations at the time of the plaintiff's alleged accident.

         Siren initially contracted with Eni to act as operations coordinator for work on another well; however, Eni enlisted the assistance of a Siren employee, Jim Leger, to perform what was described as clerical work. Mr. Barry Soileau, who was a production manager for Eni, testified that Mr. Leger was to “act as liaison on the safety side between Eni . . .the rig personnel, the construction personnel and whatever other discipline was performing any activities out there relative to work permits being issued and safety meetings and coordinating all of those disciplines and their JSA's.”[2] According to Mr. John Randall, the production supervisor for Eni who was the “ultimate work authority, ” Mr. Leger's responsibilities included preparing Unit Work Permits, collecting the Job Safety Analyses (“JSA”) from the contractors that related to the permitted work, and then providing the JSA and Permit to Eni for approval.[3] Mr. Leger's job responsibilities did not include evaluating the safety aspects of a JSA nor did anyone with Siren have authority to approve or execute Eni work permits.[4]

         In August 2012, Apache and Greene's Energy Group, the plaintiff's employer, entered into a Master Service Contract. Under Section 2, Apache hired Greene's to perform certain work to support Apache's “onshore and offshore exploration and production business” as provided in subsequent job orders. Section 8 of the contract specified that Greene's “shall be, and perform at all times as, an independent contractor.” Siren had no contractual relationship with Greene's.

         In the spring of 2015, Apache hired Greene's to flush out the Bass Lite pipeline from the Devil's Tower platform to prepare it to be plugged and abandoned. It was up to Greene's to determine what personnel and equipment it needed to do the job. Greene's was responsible for rigging up and rigging down its equipment under the supervision of a Greene's supervisor who directed the Greene's crew. Greene's sent a crew of five men, including Mr. Spisak, to Devil's Tower to perform the flushing operation. Mr. Spisak was employed by Greene's as a helper. The crew's supervisor was a Greene's employee, Matthew Breaux. Mr. Spisak reported directly to Mr. Breaux, and Mr. Breaux had ultimate supervisory control over Mr. Spisak's work. There is no evidence that Mr. Leger or any other employee of Siren had the authority to direct the manner in which Greene's did its work.

         The Greene's crew arrived at Devil's Tower on May 6, 2015. Sometimes utilizing the cranes aboard the platform and sometimes not, they rigged up their equipment and conducted the flushing operation. On May 18, as he was required to do in his capacity as the immediate supervisor of the crew performing the work, Mr. Breaux prepared a JSA. It was given to Mr. Leger who prepared a Unit Work Permit that was signed by a representative of Eni and Mr. Brian Ray of Stella Maris detailing the operations of flushing the line with a methanol/water combination.[5] However, the line hydrated, which created an ice plug such that the flushing operation could not be completed. At that point, the Greene's crew had to rig down their equipment and prepare to disembark the platform. Mr. Breaux prepared another JSA which listed “use of crane” as part of the “hazard posed by the energy source.”[6] The record provided to this Court does not contain a separate Unit Work Permit that corresponds with this JSA. There is no evidence that Mr. Leger was ever made aware of the second JSA from Greene's on May 18 and Mr. Leger's testimony is unrebutted that he did not know that the Greene's crew had begun rigging down at the time of the plaintiff's alleged accident.

         Mr. Spisak claims that he was injured during the rig down operation when he and another member of the Greene's crew were carrying a ten-foot-long section of chicksan pipe. Mr. Spisak claims he tripped and was then pushed by the other Greene's employee on the opposite end of the pipe. Mr. Spisak contends the Greene's crew was denied access to the cranes on the platform for the rig down operations, and therefore, he and other members of the Greene's crew had to carry the chicksan pipe by hand.

         The evidence is undisputed that there were cranes aboard the platform available for use by the Greene's crew. However, other contractors aboard the platform were also utilizing the cranes as simultaneous operations (“SIMOPS”) were ongoing. Therefore, if a crane was in use by some other contractor, the Greene's crew would have to simply wait on its availability. According to Mr. Breaux, the lead rigger was keeping track of who was using the cranes and when Greene's could use them.[7] The testimony is uncontradicted that Mr. Leger “was not one those supervisors that would have - whose job it would have been to coordinate access to the crane with any of those disciplines.”[8]

         On the date of the alleged accident, Mr. Breaux was advised by Mr. Ray that the crane was in use, that the Greene's crew would not have access to it at that time, and that they would not have access to it until the following day. According to Mr. Breaux, a decision was made by the Greene's crew not to wait on the availability of a crane, and they continued with the de-rigging process including preparing another JSA.[9]

         The plaintiff contends that Mr. Leger failed to generate another Unit Work Permit to correspond with the second JSA such that a crane would be required to be utilized before the work began. However, there is no evidence that Mr. Leger participated in, or was even aware of, the decision not to wait for the crane which would have been available for Greene's use, albeit at a later time. There is also no evidence that Mr. Leger received any communication from anyone with Greene's or Stella Maris regarding a need for priority access to the crane. Finally, there is no evidence that Mr. Leger or anyone employed by Siren had any knowledge of the operations being conducted in the location where the alleged accident occurred prior to its occurrence.

         Applicable Law and Analysis

         A. The Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the applicable governing law.[10] A genuine ...


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