Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Spisak v. Apache Corp.

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

April 5, 2017




         Currently pending are the motion for summary judgment (Rec. Doc. 68), which was filed by the plaintiff, Timothy B. "Ben" Spisak with regard to the liability of defendants Eni U.S. Operating Co. Inc. and Williams Field Services Group, LLC, and the cross-motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability (Rec. Doc. 79), which was filed by Eni and Williams. The motions are 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 (a) denies the plaintiffs motion in its entirety, (b) grants the defendants' motion with regard to Williams's liability and dismisses the plaintiffs claims against Williams with prejudice, and (c) denies the defendants' motion with regard to Eni's liability on the basis that a genuine issue of material fact exists.


         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.

         Williams Field Services Group, LLC is the owner of the platform and Eni U.S. Operating Co. Inc. is the operator. Apache Corporation is the owner of a well that was tied into Devil's Tower by pipeline. Apache and Stella Maris, LLC entered into a Master Service Contract, under which Apache hired Stella Maris to act as its company representative on the platform. The individual who performed that job was Brian Ray.

         Apache and Greene's Energy Group, the plaintiffs employer, entered into a Master Service Contract in which Greene's contracted 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." At all times relevant, Greene's did not have a contract with either Williams or Eni for any work aboard Devil's Tower.

         In the spring of 2015, Apache hired Greene's to flush out the Bass Lite pipeline from the Devil's Tower platform and 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 to Devil's Tower to perform the flushing operation, including Mr. Spisak who 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.

         The Greene's crew arrived at Devil's Tower on May 6, 2015. They barricaded off their work area with scaffolding and, sometimes utilizing the cranes aboard the platform and sometimes not, they rigged up their equipment and conducted the flushing operation. 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 from the platform.

         Mr. Spisak claims that he was injured on May 18, 2015, as the crew was rigging down their equipment. It 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 the crane was in use by some other contractor, the Greene's crew would have to wait on its availability. The duration of the wait was not consistent. On the date of the alleged accident, the Greene's crew did not get access to the crane for the rig down procedure, and for reasons not entirely clear on the record, the Greene's crew did not wait on the availability of a crane (which may not have been available until the next day) and conducted at least some of the rigging down procedure, including the movement of chicksan pipe, by hand.[1]

         As Mr. Spisak and another member of the Greene's crew were carrying a ten-foot-long section of chicksan pipe within the barricaded area, Mr. Spisak allegedly tripped and was then pushed by the other Greene's employee on the opposite end of the pipe. Mr. Spisak may have tripped over some of Greene's equipment, either another length of chicksan pipe or a hose. It is undisputed, however, that he did not trip over any equipment that was owned by Williams or Eni.

         According to the incident investigation report, Greene's employees who were interviewed stated "they had to move the material manually because divers were below and the rig did not want to make the lifts with them in this position. When the divers would move out of the way the company would use the crane for their own use, leaving Greenes [sic] without the use of the crane." (Emphasis added). The Court is left with nothing to indicate who "the rig" is and whether that entity is different from "the company."

         Eni, as the operator of the platform, employed the Offshore Installation Manager ("OIM") whose job it was to oversee all operations on the platform and to ensure that all operations were run in a safe manner. John Randall held the position of OIM, and he had the "ultimate work authority" on the platform including who would have access to the cranes and when. The coordination of the contractors' work through a collaborative process amongst the various supervisors so that each contractor could have access to a crane when needed was also part of the responsibility of the OIM. However, that is where the evidence is in conflict.

         Mr. Ray testified initially that "someone in the control room" with Eni would be the person to talk to in order to get access to the crane. He then testified that he didn't go to Eni because "they wasn't doing any crane work." When Mr. Ray needed access to a crane, he testified that he went to the inspector for another contractor, DGE (Deep Gulf Energy) who also owned a well on the platform - presumably occupying a similar position as Apache. Jim Leger, a Siren employee who acted as a liaison for Eni, testified that Willie Bergeron who worked for DGE was the "big kahuna" who decided when and if Greene's could use the cranes. Danny Bergeron, who worked for DGE's subcontractor Performance Energy, was identified by Mr. Leger as the person who "for the most part" made decisions on crane access. Matt Breaux testified that the riggers were in charge of the crane, yet he did not know who employed them. While Mr. Leger indicated that if Willie Bergeron wanted the crane, he got it because "it was Willie's crane, " the evidence does not establish who actually made the decision on crane access at any particular time. Nevertheless, it is undisputed that Eni had the ultimate work authority on the platform, which included coordinating crane access.

         On the day of the plaintiffs accident, Mr. Breaux completed a job safety analysis ("JSA") to which was attached a Unit Work Permit that was signed off on by Eni as the OIM. The evidence establishes that, after the line hydrated, a subsequent JSA was executed prior to the rig-down that included language concerning the use of a crane. However, the second JSA was not signed by anyone with Eni, nor was a separate Unit Work Permit executed. Mr. Breaux testified that Greene's was essentially denied access to the crane at the time the rig down began by "the riggers" but it is not clear by whom these people were employed, i.e. whether they were Eni employees, DGE employees, or somebody else's employee. It is also unclear whether the coordination of the use of the crane was conducted as indicated by Mr. Randall, why the use of the crane was delayed, how long the delay would have lasted, and whether the delay was of sufficient duration that a stop work order could have and should have been issued until coordination of the use of the crane could have been undertaken.[2] However, it is undisputed that coordination of crane access did not occur when the job changed from flushing the line to rigging down.

         Williams did not have any employees on the platform at any time during the flushing project, and Williams did not exercise any control over the details of the work performed by Greene's. There is no evidence that anyone with Williams directed the Greene's crew to move the chicksan pipe by hand, or that Williams was even aware that the operation was being undertaken in that manner at that time. While the plaintiff alleged that Mr. Ray of Stella Maris ordered the plaintiff to carry the pipe by hand, there is no evidence that anybody from Williams did so, or that anybody from Williams provided any other instructions in rigging down or moving the equipment. In addition, there is no evidence that Greene's was told by anyone with Williams that Greene's could not use the crane or that anyone with Williams had anything whatsoever to do with the use or operation of the crane. Finally, there is no evidence that any equipment on the platform, or the platform itself, was in any way defective or that any condition of the platform or its appurtenances contributed to the plaintiffs accident.

         Applicable ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.