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Gennuso v. Apache Corp

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

May 12, 2017

DONALD JOSEPH GENNUSO
v.
APACHE CORPORATION, ET AL.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          PATRICK J. HANNA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Currently pending is defendant Apache Corporation's motion for summary judgment. (Rec. Doc. 71). The motion is opposed. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, this Court grants Apache's motion and dismisses the plaintiff's claims against Apache with prejudice.

         Background

         The following facts are undisputed. This case arises out of an incident that allegedly occurred in May 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 Devil's Tower platform, and defendant Eni U.S. Operating Co. Inc. was the operator of Devil's Tower at all relevant times. Apache is the owner of a well that was tied into Devil's Tower by pipeline.

         In July 2005, Apache and defendant 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 contractor 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, the plaintiff's employer, entered into a Master Service Contract. Under Section 2 of the contract, 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.” 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 and prepare it to be plugged and abandoned. It was up to Greene's to determine what personnel and equipment were needed to do the job. Greene's was responsible for rigging up and rigging down its equipment under the supervision of a Greene's employee who directed the Greene's crew. Greene's sent a crew of five employees, including Mr. Gennuso, to Devil's Tower to perform the flushing operation. The crew's supervisor was a Greene's employee, Matthew Breaux, and Mr. Breaux had ultimate supervisory control over Mr. Gennuso's work.

         The Greene's crew arrived at Devil's Tower on May 6, 2015. Utilizing the cranes aboard Devil's Tower, the Greene's equipment was offloaded, and the next day the crew rigged up. Mr. Gennuso claims that he was injured on May 7, 2015, as the crew was rigging up their equipment. Mr. Gennuso worked on the night shift. His supervisor on the night shift was Greene's employee Beau Cluse. Matt Breaux who was the overall supervisor of the Greene's employees, only worked the day shift. Stella Maris employee Brian Ray worked a swing shift, covering some part of both the day shift and the night shift.

         Mr. Gennuso claims that, on his first evening shift while rigging up, he and Mr. Cluse were at a location on the platform where they were attempting to tie in their equipment to a “tree” so that chemicals could be pumped through the Bass Lite pipeline. The plan was for Mr. Gennuso to lift an L-shaped connecting joint of pipe called a “90, ” and for Mr. Cluse to screw a longer length of pipe into the 90. As Mr.Gennuso lifted the 90, however, he claims that Mr. Cluse was not ready to screw the other pipe to it. The 90 slipped a little and Mr. Gennuso had to push harder to hold the 90 up longer than he expected. In the process of this task, he felt a pop in his back. Although he does not know how much the 90 weighed, Mr. Gennuso's contention is that the 90 was heavy and should have been lifted by a crane rather than manually.

         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 simply wait on its availability. There is no evidence in this record that, while the 90 was being connected by the Greene's crew, the Greene's crew asked for and was refused access to a crane.

         Apache did not have any employees on the platform at any time during the flushing project, and Apache did not exercise any control over the details of the work performed by Greene's. The crew from Greene's performed the work while Brian Ray, a Stella Maris employee, verified that the job was completed to the appropriate specifications. There is no evidence in the record that Apache directed the Greene's crew to move any 90 by hand, or that Apache was even aware that the operation was being undertaken in that manner at the time. There is no evidence that anybody from Apache gave any instructions in rigging up or moving the equipment. In addition, there is no evidence in this record that Greene's was told by anyone with Apache that Greene's could not use the crane. On the contrary, the testimony submitted is consistent that Apache did not prevent the Greene's crew from using the crane at any time.

         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.[1] A genuine ...


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