United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
SHELL OFFSHORE, INC.
TESLA OFFSHORE, LLC ET AL.
M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
does not have an entitlement to a contribution remedy until
it pays more than its fair share to satisfy the judgment.
See 1 Thomas J. Schoenbaum, Admiralty &
Maritime Law § 5-19 (5th ed. 2016). Therefore, the
judgment in this case did not memorialize that any of the
defendants had an entitlement to contribution. No defendant
did when judgment was entered.
all changed while this case was pending on appeal. There,
defendant Tesla Offshore (“Tesla”) paid more than
its fair share of the judgment to obtain a full release of
plaintiff Shell Offshore's claims. Because that
post-judgment payment gives Tesla the right to obtain
contribution from its co-defendants, this Court (1) grants
the motion to reopen the judgment, (2) grants summary
judgment on the contribution claim, and (3) issues an amended
case arises out of a maritime accident. Tesla hired
International Offshore Services and International Marine, LLC
(collectively “International”) to conduct an
offshore survey. Part of the terrain to be surveyed lay near
an offshore drilling rig leased by Shell. During the survey,
the towline dragging the sonar towfish behind
International's vessel struck a mooring line on the
offshore rig. As a result, drilling ceased for almost two
weeks while the damaged mooring line was replaced.
ensued. The jury found both Tesla's and
International's negligence to be a proximate cause of the
accident and attributed 75% of the fault to Tesla and 25% of
the fault to International. The jury further found that Shell
was entitled to $ 9, 041, 552 in damages. So under the
“well-established” rule of joint and several
liability in maritime law, McDermott, Inc. v.
AmClyde, 511 U.S. 202, 220 (1994), this Court entered a
final judgment making Tesla and International jointly and
severally liable to Shell for the full amount of the
judgment, see Edmonds v. Compagnie Generale
Transatlantique, 443 U.S. 256, 271 n.30 (1979)
(“[T]he plaintiff may recover from one of the
colliding vessels the damage concurrently caused by the
negligence of both.”).
of appeal followed. Tesla posted a bond to stay execution of
the judgment. International took a different tack. Instead of
posting an appeal bond, International reached a side deal
with Shell. Under that deal, International paid Shell $244,
918.99 in partial satisfaction of the judgment. The payment
was “without prejudice” to International's
ability to challenge any part of the judgment on appeal. R.
Doc. No. 364-1, at 15. Shell agreed to delay either (1)
pursuing a judgment debtor examination against International
or (2) pursing a subrogation claim against
International's underwriters. R. Doc. No. 364-1, at 15.
Shell also agreed to first try to execute the judgment
against Tesla's bond rather than International or its
underwriters. R. Doc. No. 364-1, at 15.
the issue of security settled, the parties went on their way
to the Fifth Circuit. Tesla and Shell reached an agreement to
satisfy the judgment while the parties were briefing the
appeal. Tesla agreed to pay $8, 527, 000 in new money to
Shell. In exchange for Tesla's new money and the $244,
918.99 that Shell had already received from International,
Shell agreed to release the judgment. Shell also assigned Tesla
all of Shell's possible claims against International and
International's underwriters. See R. Doc. No.
361-2 (settlement agreement).
net-net of that settlement was that Tesla had paid more than
its 75% share of the judgment. But in return Tesla received
more than just a release of Shell's claims. Instead,
Tesla is now purportedly armed with any claims that Shell had
against International or International's insurers.
and International disagreed about the implications of the
settlement on the pending appeal. As a result, the Fifth
Circuit remanded the matter back to this Court for
consideration of Tesla's claims against International. R.
Doc. No. 360. Tesla now moves for this Court to reopen the
judgment and grant summary judgment on its contribution
first step in evaluating Tesla's motion is to determine
whether this Court may reopen its previously final judgment.
Tesla moves for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 60.
60(b)(5) permits relief from a judgment when “the
judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is
based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or
vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer
equitable.” The “[u]se of the disjunctive
‘or'” in Rule 60(b)(5) “makes it clear
that each of the provision's three grounds for relief is