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Knox v. Bisso Marine, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 15, 2017


         SECTION A(5)



         The following motions are before the Court: Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 36) filed by REC Marine Logistics, LLC; Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 46) filed by Bisso Marine, LLC; Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 52) filed by Dawn Services, LLC. All motions are opposed. The motions, submitted to the Court on April 19, 2017, and May 3, 2017, are before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action arises out of injuries that Plaintiff Patrick Knox sustained during a personnel basket transfer in July 2014 while working in the Gulf of Mexico. Knox, who was employed by Coastal Towing, LLC, was working as a crewmember on the TRENT JOSEPH when he became ill and needed to be evacuated to shore for treatment. To effect the evacuation, Knox first transferred from the TRENT JOSEPH to the MIGHTY CHIEF, Bisso Marine's vessel, and then from the MIGHTY CHIEF to the MS JANE, REC Marine Logistic's vessel. A crane was used to transfer Knox via personnel basket from the MIGHTY CHIEF to the MS JANE. According to Knox, during the transfer the crane operator slammed the personnel basket onto the deck of the MS JANE causing Knox to be ejected. Knox claims serious injuries to his neck, back, hip, knee and other parts of his body as a result of the incident. (Rec. Doc. 20, Complaint at 3).

         The parties were working in the Gulf that day because Bisso undertook an offshore construction project to lay pipe offshore. Bisso was using its pipelay barge MIGHTY CHIEF for that purpose. For support services, Bisso hired a towing vessel and an offshore supply vessel. Bisso contracted with Dawn Services, LLC for the towing vessel (TRENT JOSEPH), which Dawn obtained from Coastal via an oral agreement. Bisso had no direct contract with Coastal. Bisso contracted with Kilgore Marine Service, Inc. (2010 master time charter agreement) for the supply vessel (MS JANE), which Kilgore obtained via a written contact from REC (2014 brokerage agreement). Bisso had no direct contract with REC. The following chart, taken from Bisso's Memorandum in Support (Rec. Doc. 46-1 at 3), [1] depicts the relationship between the entities:

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         The instant litigation was initiated by Coastal, Knox's employer and owner/operator of the TRENT JOSEPH, who sought a declaratory judgment that REC was responsible for the incident and must indemnify Coastal for all sums paid to Knox. REC filed a third-party demand against Dawn seeking defense and indemnity under Dawn's contract with Bisso. Knox was granted leave to intervene to assert claims against Bisso, REC, and Coastal.

         The instant motions pertain to certain of the cross claims/third-party demands between Bisso, REC, and Dawn. A bench trial is scheduled for January 22, 2018 (Rec. Doc. 58). The magistrate judge is continuing to help settle Knox's injury claim and a full proposal is due to the magistrate judge on May 15, 2017. (Rec. Doc. 50).


         Summary judgment is appropriate only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, " when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). Once the moving party has initially shown "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's cause, " Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986), the non-movant must come forward with "specific facts" showing a genuine factual issue for trial. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). Conclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Id. (citing SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993)).

         REC's Motion for Summary Judgment

         REC moves for summary judgment on its third-party demand against Dawn. REC contends that the Master Subcontractor Agreement (“MSA”) between Bisso and Dawn inures to its benefit such that Dawn owes contractual defense and indemnity to REC. REC's claim is grounded on Section 4(d)(1) of the MSA. The Court need not recite the lengthy section in full because it suffices to say that it will only inure to REC's benefit if REC is part of the “Contractor Group, ” as defined in the MSA.[2] (Rec. Doc. 36-3, Exhibit B at 3). According to the MSA, the term “Contractor Group” is meant to include individually and collectively

[Bisso] and its subsidiary, affiliated companies, co-venturers, partners, joint venturers, owners, stockholders, representatives, and Customer (and anyone to whom Customer contractually requires indemnity or insurance) as well as the officers, directors, employees, agents, ...

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