United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
DONALD RINEHART, JR.
NATIONAL OILWELL VARCO L.P., ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by
Defendant Starfleet Marine Transportation, Inc. (R. Doc. 79).
Plaintiff opposes the Motion, and, upon leave of the Court,
Defendant filed a reply. (R. Docs. 95, 100). Having
considered the parties' briefs and applicable law, the
Court now issues this Order and Reasons.
case arises out of injuries allegedly sustained by Plaintiff
Donald Rinehart (“Rinehart”) on August 21, 2014,
while he was employed as a Jones Act seaman in his capacity
as an engineer aboard the M/V Starfleet Viking (the
“Vessel”), a vessel operated by the bareboat
charterer Defendant Starfleet Marine Transportation, Inc.
(“Starfleet”). (R. Doc. 1 at 1-2). Plaintiff
invokes jurisdiction of this Court under 28 U.S.C. §
1332. Id. at 2.
alleges that he was ordered by the Vessel's captain to
assist with loading pallets aboard the ship, which was docked
in Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Id. at 2. Defendant
National Oilwell Varco, L.P. (“NOV”) owned the
mobile crane and hook used in loading the pallets and
employed the crane operator. Id. Plaintiff claims he
was injured when a pallet fork slipped from the crane's
hook onto the back of his head while loading pallets onto the
Vessel's deck. Id. Plaintiff was flown by
helicopter to the Thibodaux Medical Center for emergency
medical treatment and has since undergone multiple complex
surgical procedures with permanent scarring; severe headaches
with substantial neurological deficits, including memory loss
and a severely-diminished reading ability; and the inability
to swallow normal food, so that he must eat through a feeding
tube surgically-implanted into his stomach. Id. at
3. Plaintiff filed suit under the Jones Act and General
Maritime law requesting a jury trial and seeking recovery for
the damages he sustained.
answers, admitting that it owned the Vessel, and asserts a
number of defenses, including that Plaintiff's injuries
were caused by his own negligence or by third parties, that
his claims are prescribed, and that Starfleet is entitled to
limited liability pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 30501, et
seq. (R. Doc. 13). NOV answers and asserts a number of
defenses, including that Plaintiff's injuries were caused
by his own negligence or by third parties, that Plaintiff
failed to mitigate his damages, and that his claims are
barred by prescription or by either the Longshore and Harbor
Workers' Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. §901, et
seq., or the provisions of the Louisiana Workers'
Compensation Act, LSA R.S. 23:1021, et seq. (R. Doc.
Starfleet filed this Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on
Plaintiff's claims for maintenance and cure. (R. Doc.
79). Starfleet maintains that Plaintiff had pre-existing back
injuries that he concealed from Starfleet, and therefore is
not entitled to maintenance and cure. (R. Doc. 79-1 at 2).
Plaintiff opposes the Motion. (R. Doc. 95). The Court
previously denied Starfleet's Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment on Plaintiff's claims for maintenance and cure
because Plaintiff had not specifically claimed maintenance
and cure in his Complaint. (R. Doc. 73). Starfleet then
asserted a Counterclaim seeking a declaratory judgment that
they do not owe maintenance and cure, and Plaintiff responded
with their own Counterclaim, asserting a claim for
maintenance and cure. (R. Docs. 76, 77). Starfleet now
maintains that the question of maintenance and cure is
properly before the Court. (R. Doc. 79-1 at 1).
seeks partial summary judgment arguing that because Plaintiff
failed to disclose a preexisting condition, Starfleet does
not have to pay maintenance and cure. (R. Doc. 79-1 at 1).
Plaintiff claims that the 2014 accident caused him a variety
of injuries, which Starfleet paid to treat. Plaintiff
underwent two cervical fusions in June 2016, and was deemed
to have reached maximum medical improvement
(“MMI”) at that time. Id. at 3. In
August 2016, Plaintiff underwent a two-level lumbar
laminectomy and fusion at ¶ 4-S1 to treat posttraumatic
lumbar spine pain, exacerbation of lumbar herniated disk, and
lumbar radiculopathy, which Starfleet paid for under its
maintenance and cure obligation. Id. Starfleet
maintains that Plaintiff had been diagnosed with
“virtually the exact same diagnosis” in 2007 and
had failed to get appropriate surgery at that time.
Id. at 4. Plaintiff allegedly continued to
experience lower back pain from 2005 to 2013. Id. at
9-11. On May 31, 2014, Plaintiff completed a medical
questionnaire that asked if he had ever had an injury to his
back or if surgery had been recommended by a medical
professional; he denied both. Id. at 12.
Additionally, Plaintiff completed a medical questionnaire on
May 28, 2014, denying that he had injured his back or neck or
experienced back or neck pain. Id. at 13. Starfleet
avers that the medical questionnaires were crafted to ensure
that Plaintiff could perform his job, and had they known of
Plaintiff's history of back conditions and treatments,
they would not have hired him. Id. at 14.
has paid Plaintiff's maintenance and cure since the
accident in 2014, including $30, 320 in maintenance payments
and $393, 350 in medical payments. Id. at 3 n.3.
Because Plaintiff concealed his medical condition, Starfleet
avers they are entitled to a credit and/or reimbursement for
all payments made related to his lumbar injury. Id.
at 15. Under McCorpen v. Central Gulf Steamship
Corporation, an employer is relieved from its duty to
pay maintenance and cure if they can prove: (1) Plaintiff
knowingly concealed or intentionally misrepresents a medical
condition; (2) the medical condition was material to the
employer's decision to hire the Plaintiff; (3) there is a
causal link between the pre-existing condition and the injury
at issue. 396 F.2d 547, 548-49 (5th Cir. 1968). Starfleet
avers that because Plaintiff reached MMI for his cervical
spine injury on June 6, 2016, any further maintenance
payments were solely for Plaintiff's preexisting lumbar
injury. (R. Doc. 79-1 at 15). Accordingly, Starfleet seeks
reimbursement and/or credit for the payments made after June
6, 2016. Id. Further, Starfleet seeks a
reimbursement or credit for its cure payments related to
Plaintiff's lumbar injury in an amount to be determined
at trial. Id. at 15-16.
opposes the Motion, arguing that Starfleet's
McCorpen theory should be sent to the jury because
the record supports genuine issues of material fact on that
theory. (R. Doc. 95-1 at 1). Further, Plaintiff contends
maintenance and cure should not be terminated as he has yet
to reach MMI.
contends that the medical questionnaires he filled out and
signed both times he was hired by Starfleet - in 2010 and ...