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Washington v. Fieldwood Energy LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 1, 2017

DONALD WASHINGTON
v.
FIELDWOOD ENERGY LLC

         SECTION "H"

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are Defendants Fieldwood Energy LLC and Fieldwood Energy Offshore LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 46) and Defendant Wood Group PSN, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 48). For the following reasons, Fieldwood's Motion is GRANTED IN PART, and Wood Group's Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Donald Washington alleges that he was injured when he slipped and fell while working aboard an oil and gas production platform located on the Outer Continental Shelf. Plaintiff was a cook employed by a third-party, Taylors International (“Taylors”), and assigned to the platform VR 272A. Plaintiff alleges that he was injured when he slipped and fell on unsecured stairs while carrying steaks. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Fieldwood Energy LLC (“Fieldwood”) and Fieldwood Energy Offshore LLC are liable to him under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”) as the owner/operator of the platform.

         In addition, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Wood Group PSN, Inc. (“Wood Group”) is vicariously liable to him for the negligence of its employees. He alleges that Justin Roberts, an employee of Wood Group working as a production operator on the platform, had prior knowledge that the stairs on which Plaintiff fell were unsecured but nothing was done to repair them.

         Defendants Fieldwood and Fieldwood Energy Offshore, LLC have moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff was a borrowed employee of Fieldwood and thus his exclusive remedy is under the Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act (“LHWCA”). They also allege that Plaintiff has no basis for finding liability on the part of Fieldwood Energy Offshore, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fieldwood.

         Defendant Wood Group has also moved for summary judgment, arguing that its employee Justin Roberts was a borrowed employee of Fieldwood, and it therefore cannot be vicariously liable for his actions. This Court will discuss each Motion in turn.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”[1] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[2]

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.[3] “If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”[4] Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.”[5] “In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”[6] “We do not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”[7] Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”[8]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. Fieldwood's Motion for Summary Judgment

         A. Borrowed Employee

         Defendants allege that Plaintiff was a borrowed employee of Fieldwood at the time of his accident and therefore his exclusive remedy arises under the LHWCA, applicable by virtue of OCSLA. They argue that under the LHWCA, Plaintiff cannot bring a tort claim against Fieldwood and his negligence claims must therefore be dismissed. Plaintiff argues that he is not a borrowed employee of Fieldwood.

         Whether an individual qualifies as a “borrowed employee” is an issue of law determined by nine separate factors first delineated by the Fifth Circuit in Ruiz v. Shell Oil Co. The factors are:

(1) who has control over the employee and the work he is performing, beyond mere suggestion of details or cooperation;
(2) whose work is being performed;
(3) was there an agreement, understanding or meeting of the minds between the original and the borrowing employer;
(4) did the employee acquiesce in the new work situation;
(5) did the original employer terminate his relationship with the employee;
(6) who furnished tools and place for performance;
(7) was the new employment over a considerable length of time;
(8) who had the right to discharge the ...

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