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Spisak v. Apache Corp.

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

March 24, 2017




         Currently pending is defendant Stella Maris, LLC's motion for summary judgment. (Rec. Doc. 93). The motion is opposed. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, the motion is denied.


         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. Defendant Williams Field Services, LLC is the owner of the platform and defendant Eni U.S. Operating Co. Inc. was the operator at all relevant times. 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 plugging and abandonment operations at the time of the plaintiff's alleged accident.

         In July 2005, Apache and Stella Maris, LLC entered into a Master Service Contract, under which Apache hired Stella Maris to perform certain work or render certain services as set forth in separate job orders. Under Section 7 of the contract, Stella Maris was designated as an independent contract not subject to the control or direction of Apache. While Stella Maris controlled the manner and methods by which it performed its work under the contract, Apache was only interested in the compliance of the work with the job order.

         In August 2012, Apache and Greene's Energy Group, LLC 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.” Therefore, Greene's was not subject to the control or direction of Apache as to the details of the work performed by Greene's. Apache was only interested in whether the work performed by Greene's complied with the job order.

         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. Pursuant to its contract with Apache, Stella Maris assigned Brian Ray to work as Apache's “company man” with regard to the job being performed by the Greene's crew.

         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. During the process of flushing the line with a methanol/water combination, the line hydrated, creating an ice plug that prevented the flushing operation from being completed. At that point, on May 18, the Greene's crew had to rig down their equipment and prepare to disembark the platform.

         Mr. Spisak claims that he was injured during the rigging 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 that the Greene's crew was denied access to the cranes on the platform for the rigging down operation, 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.

         On the date of the alleged accident, Mr. Breaux was advised by Mr. Ray that the crane was in use and that the Greene's crew would not have access to it at that time. 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.

         The plaintiff's claim against Stella Maris centers on Mr. Ray's participation in the decision not to use a crane to lift chicksan pipe during the derigging operation.


         A. The Summary ...

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