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Salazar v. Wood Group Production Services Inc.

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

March 24, 2017





         Currently pending is defendant Renaissance Offshore, LLC's motion for summary judgment. (Rec. Doc. 30). The motion is opposed, and oral argument was held on March 23, 2017. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, this Court denies Renaissance's motion.


         On February 22, 2014, plaintiff Joe Salazar was employed by Tannin Energy Services, Inc. as a compressor mechanic. He was assigned to work on a fixed production platform located at West Delta Block 152-A in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana on the Outer Continental Shelf. It is undisputed that the platform was primarily owned by Renaissance Offshore, LLC and operations were being conducted on the platform by defendants Wood Group Production Services, Inc. and/or defendant Wood Group PSN, Inc.

         The contract between Renaissance and Tannin required Tannin to provide a mechanic for the platform. The Master Service Agreement between Renaissance and Tannin states that Tannin is an independent contractor and that all of Tannin employees “shall remain under [Tannin's] direct and sole supervision and control at all times.” It is undisputed that Salazar first went out to the platform on February 21, 2014 and he left the platform at the end of his regular shift on February 27, 2014. Although he checked the gauges on some equipment on the platform on his first day on the platform, he testified at his deposition that he did not know that he was also supposed to take care of equipment in a generator room on the platform. (Rec. Doc. 32-1 at 10). Thus, he very likely went to that room for the first time on the morning of February 22, 2014. He testified that his duties included monitoring the operation of two compressors located upstairs and two generators located in a downstairs generator room. He claims that he fell in the generator room on the morning of February 22 due to oil that leaked from the number one generator. (Rec. Doc. 32-1 at 10-11).

         According to Salazar, after he entered the generator room on the morning of February 22 to check gauges and take readings, he walked around the number two generator, and then slipped on oil on the floor, injuring his neck and back. He claims that he did not see the oil on the floor because the lights in the generator room were not working. (Rec. Doc. 32-1 at 11). However, he knew before he went in the room that the lights were not working, and he was equipped with a flashlight. (Rec. Doc. 32-1 at 11). The plaintiff testified that the oil on the floor of the generator room came from “[t]he rear seal, the inspection plate, and the oil pump” of the number one generator. (Rec. Doc. 30-2 at 12).

         There were no witnesses to the accident. Salazar did not fill out an accident report. His daily report indicates both that there was an oil spill in the generator room that day and also that he cleaned the floor in the generator room that day, but it does not indicate that he fell or sustained any type of injury. (Rec. Doc. 30-5 at 16). Salazar claims that he told his Wood Group supervisor Dirk Deshotel that he had fallen and was injured. (Rec. Doc. 30-2 at 4). Deshotel denies this. (Rec. Doc. 30-4 at 2, 38). Salazar filled out a written accident report about a month after the alleged accident occurred.

         There is no evidence that there were any Renaissance employees on the platform at the time of the alleged accident. Therefore, Deshotel, a Wood Group employee, was in charge. Deshotel testified that Renaissance owns the generator that was allegedly leaking. (Rec. Doc. 32-2 at 6). Renaissance argued in support of its motion that Tannin and its employee Salazar were in control of the generator room and responsible for its maintenance and that of the equipment in the generator room at the time of the accident, and Salazar's deposition testimony generally supports that conclusion. (Rec. Doc. 30-2 at 10-11; Rec. Doc. 32-3 at 4).

         There is no evidence that the plaintiff knew about the alleged generator leak before he fell. The plaintiff testified that he has no idea how long the generator was leaking before his fall. (Rec. Doc. 30-2 at 12.). He has no evidence that anybody at Wood Group or Renaissance knew there was oil on the floor of the generator room. (Rec. Doc. 30-2 at 11-12). Salazar stated that he believed the oil had been on the floor for a while because there were absorbent pads on the floor that he assumed the previous mechanic had put down to absorb the leaking oil. (Rec. Doc. 32-1 at 7). He was the only Tannin employee on the platform (Rec. Doc. 30-2 at 15). Deshotel was not aware of any problem in the generator room. (Rec. Doc. 30-4 at 7). Had he known about a problem in the generator room, he would have reported it to Renaissance. (Rec. Doc. 32-2 at 6).

         In opposition to the motion, the plaintiffs offered the affidavit and expert report of Ken Kaigler, who opined that Renaissance was responsible for the accident because it failed to keep the walking area of the platform free of oil and grease, the platform lacked the proper non-skid grating, the lighting in the generator room was improper, and Renaissance failed to require that the generator be repaired so as to prevent it from leaking oil. (Rec. Doc. 72).


         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.[1] A genuine ...

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